Landsvirkjun has been involved in the extensive land reclamation and re-forestation of the areas surrounding their power stations since 1968. Landsvirkjun has been independently responsible for these projects and has also been working in cooperation with the Iceland Forest service, the Soil Conservation Society of Iceland, forestry associations and local residents. The aim of land reclamation is to reinstate land quality, reduce disturbance to vegetated areas and stop soil erosion and vegetation destruction. Increased knowledge within the field has emphasised the importance of soil preservation as the cycle and preservation of nutrients within the soil is the foundation for all life. Increased knowledge on climate change has also inspired land reclamation efforts with carbon binding measures in mind.
Landvirkjun aims to be a carbon neutral company and is in the process of outlining a plan in order to achieve this goal. The Company aims to achieve this via extensive domestic measures. Until now, carbon binding measures have been assessed according to the size of reclaimed areas and via average coefficients for carbon binding.
The Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and The Iceland Forest Service assessed the efficiency of carbon binding in Landsvirkjun’s land reclamation areas between 2010 and 2012. The evaluation was based on internationally recognised assessment methods and will be repeated every five years. This evaluation will offer a more accurate assessment of the efficiency of carbon binding.
Two new projects in Laxaborg in Dalabyggð and Bolholt in Rangárþing ytra have yet to show signs of effective carbon binding. Landsvirkjun began forestation and land reclamation projects on these farmland areas in 2011, for the sole purpose of carbon binding.
The total surface area of Landsvirkjun’s re-forestation efforts is estimated to be approx. 135 hectares whereas it was originally estimated to be 260 hectares. The difference can be explained by the requirements outlined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC with regard to the minimum size of forest areas, their density and the average height of trees. Not all of Landsvirkjun’s re-forestation areas fulfil these requirements. The effective carbon binding of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Landsvirkjun’s forest areas in 2013 is expected to reach 814 tonnes (CO2 eq). Measurements show that older forest areas have higher carbon binding levels than younger areas. Landsvirkjun therefore expects carbon binding to increase extensively in its 135 hectares of forest land in the near future.
In 2013, over 63,000 plants were planted in the areas surrounding Landsvirkjun’s power station sites.
The figures above do not include the re-forestation project by Búrfell which is a cooperative effort between Landsvirkjun and the Icelandic Forestry Association (IFA). Landsvirkjun is participating in carbon binding within this forest area. The efficiency of carbon binding in this area has not been measured but conservative estimates indicate that this could be approx. 300 tonnes per year. An accurate estimate will be conducted within the next few years. Landsvirkjun’s total carbon binding efforts within re-forestation areas, including cooperative projects, is therefore estimated to be approx. 1,100 tonnes CO2 eq in 2013.
When data on Landsvirkjun’s carbon binding, via land reclamation, in re-vegetated areas was reviewed it became clear that there was a discrepancy between data collected by Landsvirkjun and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (SCSI). The recorded size of the area differed and a decision was therefore made to refer to previous data collected by Landsvirkjun which estimates the total to be 22,000 tonnes CO2 eq per year. This estimate is calculated from the size of Landsvirkjun’s reclamation areas, according to Company databases and the average coefficients for binding. An accurate assessment of the size and density of Landsvirkjun’s land reclamation areas will be conducted within the next two years in order to gain more knowledge on the efficiency of carbon binding within these areas.
Landsvirkjun’s annual carbon binding via re-forestation and land reclamation is estimated to be 22,000 tonnes CO2 eq per year.
Methodology for assessing carbon binding
The assessment of the effectiveness of carbon binding, via land reclamation, is measured according to international standards. The land reclamation areas are divided into five categories according to the age of the re-vegetation efforts as age and size are key factors in this type of assessment.
The first five to ten years are generally ineffective in achieving actual carbon binding. The youngest land reclamation areas, such as the area by Hálslón, therefore show low levels.
Carbon binding measures are at their most effective after 10-15 years and there are indications that this level is maintained for another 30 years. However, after approx. 50 years, actual carbon binding levels begin to drop significantly. Landsvirkjun’s oldest land reclamation areas show the highest levels of actual carbon binding. The highest levels of effective carbon binding can be found in the Blanda Reservoir area. Levels are expected to rise in the land reclamation areas in the Þjórsá, Tungnaá and Kráká (Mývatn) areas within the next few years. Carbon binding effectiveness develops in a similar manner in re-forested areas but peak levels are achieved later.
162,000 plants were planted by the project “Many Hands Lighten the Load”.
Land reclamation and forestry projects
In 2013, Landsvirkjun planted approx. 63,000 plants around its power stations. Landsvirkjun also took part in the cooperative project “Many Hands Lighten the Load” where 162,000 plants were planted. Landsvirkjun is an active participant in many projects at any given time but carbon binding efforts through these projects are not registered in Landsvirkjun’s carbon binding accounts. This is because the work is not carried out directly for Landsvirkjun.
Planting projects carried out in the vicinity of power stations by the cooperative project “Many Hands Lighten the Load”
Landsvirkjun is also active in distributing fertiliser in affected areas, and figures in 2013 were similar to that of previous years. Any garden waste materials from the power stations are used in land reclamation areas. Seeds and natural fertiliser from farms are also distributed by the Company annually. More information on land reclamation and re-forestation by Landsvirkjun between 2009 and 2013 can be found in the numerical data section.
Quantity of industrial fertilizer distributed between 2009 and 2013