The Reykjavik Energy Group is responsible for about 19,000 ha of land, some 16,000 ha of which are (IS). Please see annex that contains a list of protected areas and the species of birds and plants on the 'Red List', whose local habitat is situated in these areas. Emphasis is placed on the protection and restoration of biological diversity and ecosystems as possible.
Restoration and reclamation
Particular emphasis is placed on restoration and reclamation of the natural environment when work is done in areas where Reykjavik Energy Group operates. This is especially true when it comes to minimising visual impact of power plants. Procedures and training for employees and contractors are revised and improved regularly in order to ensure even better conduct, e.g. in the protected areas. To reclaim disturbed vegetated soil, the vegetative cover is reserved and replanted. This is done in collaboration with licence authorities, and according to Reykjavik Energy Group's objectives.
In 2022, ON Power held a workshop on nature-based solutions for aquatic ecosystems in collaboration with the Environment Agency, Verkís Consultants, the Agricultural University of Iceland and Veitur Utility. The application of nature-based solutions at Andakílsárvirkjun hydrogen power plant and at Árbæjarkvísl in Reykjavik was the focus. There are great synergies in simultaneously undertaking the restoration of natural ecosystems and actions that help us adapt to climate change, as well as implementing mitigationmeasures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Reykjavik Energy Group has shown this in action in recent years by:
- Restoring degraded ecosystems as possible to their former state, e.g. at Andakílsá river in Borgarfjörður Vest Iceland, Árbæjarkvísl in Reykjavík and in the Hengil area.
- Embark on blue-green surface water solutions in urban areas in cooperation with local authorities
- Working on the implementation of blue-green surface water solutions, in urban areas in collaboration with municipalities, to minimise the flow of rainwater from streets, roads, and other areas into the sewerage system
The benefits are much greater than only for the natural systems, as such actions also result in social, economic and health-related well-being.
Revegetation and silviculture
In 2022, ON Power planted 9,000 birch trees and mountain ash on 4 ha of land in the vicinity of the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant, and approximately 8 ha of land was revegetated in eroded zones, outside operational areas. This is keeping with ON Power's objectives of expanding land reclamation in eroded zones, and domestic silviculture.
For the last 30 years, Reykjavik Energy Group has overseen and maintained about 130 km of marked hiking trails at the Hengill area, going back to the start of operations at the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant. Considerable increase in the number of hikers visit the area, and the area is very popular for hiking in all seasons. In the summer of 2022, hiking trails at Nesjavellir were repaired. The work will continue in the summer of 2023.
River Andakílsá ecosystem
The ecosystem at river Andakílsá has recovered after a substantial amount of silt was carried into the river during an inspection of the dam intake at Andakílsá Hydropower Station in May 2017. Approximately 350 salmon were caught in the summer of 2022, which is incredibly good, compared to other salmon rivers in the area. Approximately 20,000 smolts were released into the river in 2022, and 15,000 smolts are in a farming plan. ON Power has taken this accident seriously and reacted responsibly.
Land erosion prevention on the banks of river Andakílsá, started in October of 2021. Vegetation cover was taken up, Tree trunks with roots, stones and gravel were placed in the banks to strengthen it and the vegetation cover was reused. Willow and birch were planted in the banks for further strengthening. The second part of this project will be carried out in the spring of 2022.
Application of nature-based solutions at Andakílsá river was completed in 2022, please see photos abowe.
Following a risk assessment carried out in 2021, due to the planned cleaning of silt from the power plant's intake reservoir, it is planned to improve the dam structure and clean up the reservoir. Work is underway to obtain permits.
Water levels in Lake Skorradalsvatn and waterflow in Andaílsá River
The water level in Lake Skorradalsvatn exceeded the reference limit of ON Power in March 2022 due to heavy rain and flooding. In December 2022 however, there was very little water inflow to the lake due to heavy frost, causing the water level to fall below the company's limit, please see appendix. According to the recommendations of the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, ON Power, during the freezing period, lowered the minimum flow of water into the Andakílsá River downstream of the power plant. Therefore, the flow from Lake Skorradalsvatn, to the power plant and into the Andakílsá River was reduced to 0.7 cubic meters. It is likely that this situation will affect both the ecosystem of Lake Skorradalsvatn and Andakílsá River. The aim is to have the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute to research and monitor the effects of this long-term freezing period on the life of the lake and the river.
Water level in Lake Elliðavatn
In connection with extensive installation work by Veitur Utilities, in Elliðaár River’s channel, a flap in Lake Elliðavatn's reservoir was opened in February 2020, causing fall in water level under the set limits for a week. In 2022, research was carried out on key aspects of the ecosystem in Lake Elliðavatn. The goal was to get information on seasonal changes in these key factors and thus be able to assess the state of Lake Elliðavatn and identify the reasons for changes that may occur, e.g. due to external stress. The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute and collaborators performed the research, and the results will be published early 2023.