Jæja! The Green Program: Adventures in Iceland

November 20, 2017

The highlands

​Nearing my last semester of undergrad at Georgia Tech this past May, I realized that I hadn’t taken advantage of any opportunities to study abroad.  A civil engineering friend of mine had recently attended the Green Program in Peru and recommended I check it out.  Turns out the Green Program in Iceland became one of the best decisions I made throughout my academic career at Tech.

Turbines in the Elliðaárstöð Plant

The Green Program in Iceland is a 10-day sustainability program focused on renewable energy.  The program included a myriad of activities, from touring renewable energy generation plants to extreme adventuring.  As a prospective graduate student in environmental engineering, I was excited about gaining more knowledge about different renewable energy fields, especially from a country that produces 100% of its electricity from hydropower and geothermal energy!  It was a bonus to know that I would be spending time enjoying and learning about the landscapes of Iceland.

The dining room at Friðheimar

We took various classes on renewable energy sources at the Iceland School of Energy at eykjavik University.  Having some background in environmental fluid mechanics and earth sciences, I felt inspired gaining a deeper understanding of these applications in the mechanics and implementation of geothermal energy and hydropower generation.  After each class, we would go visit the respective power plant to see how these sources of renewable energy serve the people of Iceland.  We visited Hellisheiði, the largest geothermal power plant in the world; Ljósafoss, a hydropower station with an interactive exhibition; and Elliðaárstöð, a hydropower plant built in 1921.  

Where the snorkeling took place.  Also some of the cleanest water in the world

We also visited the Þorvaldseyri farm, where they taught us about Iceland’s biofuel generation from the rapeseed plant and showed us how the fuel is made.  The program reserved a lunch for us at Friðheimar, a sustainable greenhouse restaurant where they grow tomatoes year round and make the best tomato soup, in my opinion.  In addition to all of the classes and site visits, we also performed a capstone project involving sustainability.  My team researched ways to integrate new material technologies with rainwater systems and roof shingles.

Iceland Green Program group picture

Outside the classroom, we took on the many adventuring opportunities throughout Iceland.  We went to various waterfalls, snorkeled between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic Plates, hiked volcanoes and mountains in the highlands, attempted a glacier, visited geysers and black sand beaches, bathed in hot springs on mountains, and camped on volcanic ash.  We also had the opportunity to enjoy the culture of Iceland, staying in cozy hostels, interacting with locals, and consuming lots and lots of Icelandic soup.

Our days were packed, but my heart was full.  I’m incredibly thankful for all of the experiences and people I met.  I was hoping to leave Iceland feeling inspired and motivated to continue my education in renewable energy, and I feel that was achieved.  Thank you to the Joe S. Mundy Global Learning Endowment from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and to Serve-Learn-Sustain for sponsoring this opportunity, an experience that I will treasure for a lifetime.