The Theistareykir Power Plant is the first geothermal power plant to be assessed under the new Geothermal Sustainability Assessment Protocol. The protocol was developed as a partnership project of Landsvirkjun, Reykjavik Energy, HS Orka and the Icelandic Environment Agency, with Sigurdur St. Arnalds of the engineering firm Mannvit as project manager. The project, which comprises a preliminary assessment of the preparatory phase of the plant, has been in preparation since this fall.
The assessor, Joerg Hartmann, is currently in Iceland and interviews have been conducted with stakeholders in recent days. Interviews were conducted in Reykjavik last week, and this week interviews will be conducted in northern Iceland in the communities surrounding the plant. Among the parties interviewed are employees of Landsvirkjun, designers and representatives of various agencies, municipalities, enterprises and NGOs, as well as contractors who have been involved in the construction of the plant.
The assessment consists in a detailed review of 17 different topics relating to the preparations for the Theistareykir Power Plant, which are designed to provide an overview of how well the plant and its operations conform to international criteria on sustainable development. Examples of the categories assessed are communication and consultation, environmental and social management, labour and working conditions, geothermal resource utilisation and biodiversity.
Landsvirkjun is well known to Joerg Hartmann, who participated in an assessment of the Blanda Power Plant in 2013. That assessment was conducted on the basis of the international Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP). That protocol, which defines the extent to which the operations of hydropower projects conform to sustainability objectives, is the model for GSAP.
The HSAP protocol was developed in 2008-2010 in a partnership between international NGOs operating in the field of social and environmental affairs, governments around the world, commercial and development banks and the International Hydropower Association (IHA), which took the initiative in the preparation of the protocol. The representative of the Icelandic government in that work was Gudni A. Jóhannesson, Director General of the National Energy Authority, and through its membership of the IHA Landsvirkjun has supported the work of developing the Assessment Protocol from the outset.
Two assessments have been conducted in Iceland under the HSAP Assessment Protocol. The first was carried out in May 2012, when the preparations for the prospective Hvammsvirkjun Power Plant in the lower reaches of the river Thjórsá were assessed. The second assessment was of the operation of the Blanda Power Plant in September 2013.
Following the introduction and successful use of the HSAP Assessment Protocol ideas emerged on the preparation of a similar protocol for sustainable utilisation of geothermal resources, and the assessment which is currently in progress is carried out in accordance with a draft version of that protocol. The results of the assessment at Theistareykir are anticipated in March, and subsequently a decision will be made regarding international promotion of the new protocol.