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Exploring Renewable Energy in Iceland

Sustainable Materials and Technology major Brendan Tapper participated in the Green Program’s trip to Iceland, where the focus of the trip was renewable energy and energy policy. This trip cemented his interest in sustainability, and allowed him an authentic, hands-on experience with Iceland’s renewable energy policy.

This summer I was fortunate enough to take part in a trip to Iceland that focused on learning about the renewable energy sources there, that combined make up 100% of the electricity used in the country. This trip was provided for through the Green Program, whose focus is to provide students with the opportunity for a short-term study abroad opportunity that focuses on sustainability. As part of the program we completed an Intro to Energy course at Reykjavik University with classes that focused on geothermal, hydropower, and energy policy. In addition to these courses, we visited multiple geothermal and hydropower plants that allowed for us to get more hands on experience on how these facilities are run. Our grade in the course was also dependent upon a Capstone Project that we worked on in groups for the duration of the trip, with my group focusing on providing household-basis wind energy to people in Kenya.

During our trip, we were able to immerse ourselves into Icelandic culture and the natural beauty of the country, in large part thanks to our local guides being able to offer us an authentic experience. We hiked a glacier, camped and hiked near a volcano, snorkeled in between tectonic plates, saw beautiful waterfalls, and much more. All of these experiences were something new to me and sometimes out of my comfort zone, but I had a fantastic time taking in all the sights. This trip cemented my interest in sustainability because it emphasized how important it is to me that these  natural locations are kept intact and not ruined by negative human interaction with the planet. Iceland was one of the places on my bucket list because of how unique and beautiful the country is, and I am glad that I was able to witness it, and I hope to return someday.

One of my favorite parts of the trip were the experiences that we were able to have with the locals and learn more about what living in Iceland is like. Many residents enjoy going to the local swimming pools that are located in most towns, kept warm even in the winter with geothermal energy. I thought it was very interesting and unique how their access to these energy sources could have a direct impact on how the people enjoy their day to day activities.

Our trip also coincided with the start of the World Cup 2018, and Iceland was participating in the tournament for the first time. There was an atmosphere of excitement surrounding Reykjavik and the people who felt a special connection to the team, coming from such a tight knit community of around 300,000 people in Iceland. We spent the last day in the city of Reykjavik, which ended up being a very long day because in the summer months it stays light for 22 hours. We spent time walking around going into different stores, and even ended up seeing Bill Murray in one of the souvenir shops!

It was a great way to cap off a fantastic trip to one of the most unique countries in the world. My only complaint is that the trip was not longer, but the experience was definitely something I will not forget.


Click here to read Brendan’s Takeaways from Iceland.