Landsvirkjun is the largest producer of power in Iceland. It operates 13 hydroelectric facilities, 2 geothermal facilities and one fossil fuel backup plant.
We got to visit one of the oldest operating plants in the country sitting on the Sog River, Irafoss Station. There are three hydro plants in total running along the Sog, which starts to the Northeast of Reykjavík at Lake Þingvallavatn and runs westward down to the sea. Irafoss is in the middle. From the outside, there’s little to indicate what’s going on in this little building, other than the big wires and transformers outside. Originally built in 1953, the plant got a makeover/rebuild a couple of years ago, including a new structure with aluminum outer siding. Inside, at ground level, it’s just like any other office building in Iceland, complete with the obligatory artwork. You take an elevator about 30 meters down to the generator room to see and hear/feel what’s going on. It’s noisy with the hum of the generators going, but you don’t have to yell to be heard. There are three generators, two Westinghouse, one made by ASEA of Sweden, all dating back to 1953 and still generating power today. Amazingly, there’s no “end-of-life” planned for the power hardware. They are given pristine care and get a preventive maintenance overhaul every couple of years. However, the monitoring and control electronics are all shiny new and modern, abet a little dull in their cabinets. A floor below, we see the underground river flow as the water continues downward. To exit, we walk past the “bottom” of the three steadily turning generators and into a sloping tunnel to reach the outside and the welcome sunlight.