A New Approach for Assessing Landscape Impacts of Geothermal Power Plants: A Case Study of Hellisheiði

by David Ostman

Institution: University of Iceland
Year: 2015
Keywords: Umhverfis- og auðlindafræði
Record ID: 1222034
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/21734


Geothermal energy utilization has become a burgeoning resource for many countries throughout the world, but specifically for Iceland where it is the main source of hot water for district heating and accounts for 24% of the total electricity generation. As growing energy demand yields greater interest in harnessing geothermal fields, it becomes essential to monitor the social and environmental impacts of this development in a more strategic manner. One of the more notable impacts caused by geothermal power plant development is a transformation of the spatial/visual elements of the landscape. Evaluating these particular landscape impacts can be a challenging process and is often left underrepresented compared to the other social and environmental considerations. This study intended to shed light on these impacts and propose a new Geographic Information System (GIS)-based methodology for assessing and rating geothermal power plants based on six spatial and visual landscape factors: (a) fragmentation, (b) surface area, (c) visibility, (d) geothermal sprawl, (e) wilderness area reduction, and (f) conservation conflicts. The methodology, named the Spatial Landscape Impact Assessment (SLIA) rating system, was developed and tested on the Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant in Iceland. It was also then tested on the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant for comparison purposes. The results showed Hellisheiði having a higher SLIA rating compared to Nesjavellir and thus a higher visual and spatial impact on the landscape.