In the 1950s, public discussion had already begun on the possibilities of geothermal heat for Suðurnes residents and the necessity of the municipalities joining forces to harness it.
In a Keflavík Town Council meeting on 26 May 1959, a committee was elected to explore the possibility of a hot water utility in Keflavík. Later that year, a hot water utility committee was also formed in Njarðvík. In 1969, the municipality of Grindavík decided to explore the Svartsengi area with regard to geothermal heat to be utilised for heating houses in Grindavík.
In 1971 and 1972, two boreholes were drilled north of Grindavík, close to Svartsengi. The boreholes had a depth of 240 and 403 metres and revealed that this was a high-temperature area (exceeding 200°C at depths below 1,000 m) and the water from the boreholes was saline (approximately 2/3 of the salinity of seawater).
Due to the salinity and the temperature, it was clear that the water could not be used directly, as was done in Reykjavík and most other places. Heat exchange methods had to be developed in order to utilise the geothermal heat.
HS is founded
Hitaveita Suðurnesja (HS Orka) was established on 31 December 1974, with an act passed by the Icelandic Parliament, for the purpose of utilising the geothermal energy in the area for space heating. When the company was founded, the Icelandic Treasury owned 40% and the seven municipalities then in the area owned 60%.
The first borehole for cold water was drilled in 1975 and a heat exchange plant built in Svartsengi. That same year, Ingólfur Aðalsteinsson was recruited as the company’s first employee and later took over as Managing Director.
The temporary plant at Svartsengi was started up in 1976, and hot water was piped to the Festi community centre in Grindavík, the first building to receive hot water in the Suðurnes region.
Another important milestone in the company’s history was in 1978, when electricity production from geothermal energy began with the start-up of two 1 MW steam turbines.
HS is established
Hitaveita Suðurnesja became the first Icelandic energy company to be privatised in 2000. Following changes to electricity legislation in 2008, stipulating the separation between competitive operations and concession operations in energy companies, Hitaveita Suðurnesja hf. was divided up into HS Veitur hf. and HS Orka hf.
HS Orka owns and operates two power plants at Svartsengi and in Reykjanes. The capacity of the geothermal plant at Svartsengi is 74 MWe of electricity and 150 MWth of heat energy. The geothermal power plant was built in six stages between 1976 and 2015. The heat capacity will be increased by 40 MWth in the spring.
HS Orka is Iceland’s third largest energy company, with approximately 8% of all electricity produced.
In 2015, HS Orka received the award issued by the Icelandic Satisfaction Poll in the category for companies in the energy industry. The award has been presented for the past thirteen years and the company has received it on twelve occasions.
The company was awarded the VÍS and Administration of Occupational Safety and Health preventative action prize in 2015. The prize is awarded for the use of exceptional preventative measures and environmental and safety measures.