Officially, all preparation and discussion of harnessing geothermal energy in the Suðurnes area to utilize it for electrical use, as well as for heating homes, began during the fifties. Nevertheless, construction of the energy plant was delayed for a while because of low oil prices, which the energy plant could not compete with. However when oil prices soared, harnessing geothermal energy became a quite attractive option. The hot water which is produced in the energy plant near Svartsengi is fresh water, which comes from fresh water reserves in Lágum.
Water from these fresh water reserves is also used as fresh water in Grindavík, Reykjanesbær(formerly Keflavík, Njarðvík and Hafnir) and on the Keflavík air base. Producing the hot water is quite simple; first fresh water from Lág is heated up by steam Not only is the water heated but is also boiled to get rid of gasses, especially oxygen and carbon dioxide – for example by getting rid of the gas molecules, e.g. deoxygenating of the oxygen molecules . If this is not done then the water would be unfit for use, simply because it would corrode the steel; without oxygen corrosion does not occur.
In Vestmannaeyjar an electrode boiler produces stream which is then pumped into two 10 MW heat exchangers that then heat up the water, which is then pumped back into the distribution system. The water used to heat up the water is fresh water that runs from the Eyjafjall glacier, which is then pumped via underwater pipes to Vestmannaeyjar. The electrical power that is used producing the steam is expended energy from Landsvirkjun. Along with this electrical power, thermal energy from the Sorpeyðingarstöð(Disposal Plant) in Vestmannaeyjar and the fish meal factories when they are in production are utilized. Around 15% of the energy is produced this way. Velocity controlled pumps pump the water into the twofold distribution system: that is to say, upper and lower distribution systems. Isolated steel pipes or isolated plastic Pex pipes are layed down into the homes. One pipe (forward flow pipe) (hot water with 4 to 7 kg/cm2 pressure) heats up radiators and the drinking water. After its use this water goes into the other pipe, a back flow pipe, (around 28Celsius with 2-4 kg/cm2 pressure) into a boiling station and is then heated up again.
- The length of the distribution system is 500 km
- The water capacity in the system is 600 m3
- The number of homes/residents connected is 1400
- The maximum pumping capacity is 320 m3/ per hour
- Average pressure is 7-8 MW
- Maximum pressure is 14 to 15 MW
- Lowest pressure is 4MW
The distribution system has 130 waterholes; in these waterholes there are various controlling mechanisms. These water holes serve an important part in fixing any malfunctions or when leaks need to be sought out, or when connections are being made in the system.