Icelandic communities drive major renewable energy transformation in Grimsey Island under SMARTrenew

Major steps will be taken over the coming months, by Energy Agency, Orkusetur, as part of project SMARTrenew, to increase the renewable energy mix in the Icelandic island of Grímsey, through the installation of wind turbines and solar power plants.

Grimsey, which sits along the Arctic Circle, is one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of Iceland. Furthermore, the island is not connected to the national electricity system and derives no hot water from nature. Therefore, district heating and electricity production on the island is based on unsustainable fossil fuels and the total energy consumption is around 400,000 litres per year, as oil is primarily used for both electricity production and space heating. It is estimated that emissions from energy consumption in Grímsey amount to around 1,000 CO₂ alone per year, excluding additional consumption from industry and the marine.

Both the Icelandic state and the town of Akureyri have set ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the country's new energy policy aims to make the whole of Iceland totally independent of fossil fuels by 2050. Energy exchange in Grímsey is key to achieving these ambitious goals.

Various actions have been taken in Grímsey to reduce energy consumption and fossil fuel usage to date, including incentives for households to improve insulation in roofs and windows, reducing the need for heating. Additionally, lighting in light poles has been replaced by LED, which provides both better lighting and greater energy savings.

As part of the SMARTrenew pilot, the aim is to install two wind turbines that produce a total of 30,000 kWh per year. Agreements have been reached with Scottish manufacturers who produce small but very strong wind turbines, as weather resistance is an important consideration. There are additional plans to develop a solar power plant at Múli that could produce up to 10,000 kWh per year.

The policy is to use the experience to develop solutions for residents who are given the opportunity to install solar cells on and near their homes free of charge. These initial measures are intended to reduce oil consumption by 20,000 liters and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 tonnes per year.

Following on from these measures, the goal is to increase the share of green energy sources even further in the near future. Preparations are underway and it is envisaged that construction in Grímsey could begin at the beginning of the summer. It is hoped that the first phase of the pilot will be operational before the autumn and if successful, it is possible to add production units and reduce oil consumption even further.

SMARTrenew partner, Orkusetur, is established by Orkustofnun, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

This project is part-funded by the Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, project SMARTrenew.