Nature protection NGO Landvernd has requested that preparations for a 45-90 MW geothermal power plant in Bjarnarflag near Lake Mývatn in Northeast Iceland be stopped because neither a permanent operational license nor framework agreement are at hand.
Landsvirkjun, the national power company, is working on land formation and road construction where the planned powerhouse is to be constructed, ruv.is reports.
These are extensive operations in an area measuring 800 meters in a valley west of Námafjall, a geothermal area frequently visited by tourists.
The operations were authorized by the district council of Skútustaðahreppur. Guðrún María Valgeirsdóttir, who chairs the council, said a license for land formation in the planned energy harnessing area was issued last summer and that everyone had realized how extensive these operations would be.
Guðrún María stressed that an environmental impact assessment for the area is in effect and that laws are being complied with, adding that when the assessment and land use plan were made people realized that the area would be disrupted.
“I find people must be self-consistent. As far as I know, Landsvernd did not make any objections when the environmental impact assessment was made. Landsvernd didn’t object to the land use plan which was confirmed last year either and so they can’t just come and cry ‘wolf, wolf’ now,” stated Guðrún María.
Landsvernd reasons that the environmental impact assessment is obsolete because many new findings have been made since it took affect. “That is possible but the environmental impact assessment is still valid and will be for at least ten years, so we are complying with the law,” responded Guðrún María.
Guðrún María stated she hasn’t noticed locals being upset about the operations in Bjarnarflag, given that it is part of employment development in the Þingeyjarsýslur counties, rejecting the claim that disruptions to the environment are irreversible.
“At this place in Bjarnarflag there was nothing but screes and rocks. If the power plant doesn’t happen, it will hardly be very difficult to restore the area’s previous appearance,” Guðrún María concluded.
In a letter sent to the board of Landsvirkjun by Landsvernd, it is demanded that Landsvirkjun halt the operations in Bjarnarflag until a framework agreement for the project has been approved at Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament.
The NGO also requests a new environmental impact assessment given that the current one is almost ten years old, ruv.is reports.
In that time the energy companies have obtained important experience from the operations of geothermal power plants and their impact on the environment, which might affect the making of a new environmental impact assessment, the letter reasons.
Landsvernd specifically points out questions which have arisen regarding pollution from the planned Bjarnarflag plant, both in regard to run-off water and hydrogen sulfide.
The NGO also speculates whether harnessing of geothermal energy might lead to the cooling of the groundwater running into Lake Mývatn, thus decreasing the flow of silicon which forms a basis for biodiversity in the lake.
The lake is world-famous for its unique biosphere and a recently approved preservation plan for Mývatn and the river Laxá states that its uniqueness must be protected, Landsvernd concludes.
Click here to read more about planned energy harnessing in Iceland.