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Power generation has an inevitable impact on the natural environment which can result in a significant visual impact.

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Extensive monitoring

Landsvirkjun has always placed a great emphasis on minimising any disturbance to the areas affected by its operations. This involves supporting and maintaining natural diversity and returning disturbed areas as close to their initial condition as possible. The environmental impact of a power project is assessed immediately at the planning stage by conducting extensive research on the environment and by defining the main parameters of the design and overall appearance of structures

Landsvirkjun conducts annual, extensive monitoring and environmental impact studies in the affected areas of its power stations. Monitoring and research is often conducted in collaboration with research institutes and independent experts. A large number of reports are published annually which presents the results of monitoring and research on the natural ecosystem and Landsvirkjun‘s energy production areas.

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Projects completed this year:

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Landscaping and external appearance of structures

Procedures relating to landscaping and the external appearance of Company structures were reviewed and improved. A policy was developed on the issue as well as proposals for its implementation by defining procedures for landscaping and the layout of the design of new power stations, amongst other things. The most suitable methodology for landscape analysis was considered as well as methods that Landsvirkjun could use to support the eco-design of its new power station structures. Work also began on an assessment of Company structures.

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Environmental monitoring of the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station (Kárahnjúkar)

In 2017, ten years will have passed since the Fljótsdalur Hydropower Station began operations and many projects related to environmental monitoring and the operation of the facility will therefore need to be assessed. This includes the study of changes to the sedimentation and river bed materials carried by glacial rivers, harnessed for the operation of the station. The study concluded with a doctoral thesis defence which was supported by funding from Landsvirkjun. An open meeting was held in Egilsstaðir where employees of the East Iceland Nature Research Centre, the Icelandic Institute of Natural History and the Engineering Research Institute at the University of Iceland presented the results of research conducted on the reindeer population during the operational period of the Fljótsdalur Station. These were compared with results from the period before operations began.

Over 25 thousand salmon fry were released into a special release pond in the Uppsala River in collaboration with the Lagarfljót angling society. The salmon fry were sourced from breeding fish in the Lagarfljót and Jökla Rivers, collected in the autumn of 2014. The fry migrated from the pond at the end of June and their progress will be monitored next summer.

Vegetation was re-assessed and bird monitoring was conducted. Stone defences were constructed in the Hólmatunga area as well as an erosion barrier by Breiðavað and bank protection for the land in Egilstaðir.

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Fish and hydropower stations

An open meeting was held in collaboration with the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries where the Institute‘s employees presented river research, pertaining to hydropower stations. The results showed that the impact on rivers has been multifaceted. Angling stock has decreased in the Lagarfljót River and the Sog power stations have had a negative impact on trout stocks. However, the salmon population in the Þjórsá River has increased, salmon angling has increased in the Blanda River and angling began in the Jökla River after the river was harnessed.

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Hydropower Sustainability Protocol

Landsvirkjun's successful implementation of the international Hydropower Sustainability Protocol led to a proposal for the development of a similar protocol for sustainable geothermal power generation or: GSAP-Protocol (Geothermal Sustainability Protocol).

An advisory group was established to adapt the HSAP-evaluation key to geothermal energy. The group was led by the National Energy Authority with the participation of Landsvirkjun, OR, HS-Energy and the Environment Agency of Iceland to adapt the HSAP-evaluation key to geothermal energy. A draft of the GSAP protocol was completed in early summer for the preparation of geothermal power stations. The group decided to invite an internationally certified auditor to test the protocol for the preparation stage of the Þeistareykir Geothermal Power Station.

The auditor examined the work of the advisory group on the GSAP-protocol by studying the data and preparatory work carried out for the Þeistareykir Geothermal Power Station as well as identifying the stakeholders and participants that he wished to meet during the assessment of the protocol, which was carried out in January 2017.

The audit report and amendment proposals for the draft are scheduled to be completed by the first half of the year.

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Published materials

Landsvirkjun carries out extensive monitoring and detailed research within the areas affected by its operations. The Company also conducts extensive research on the environmental impact of potential power projects. The objective is to assess the environmental feasibility of these future projects.

The research is carried out in cooperation with the various universities, research institutes and independent specialists. An overview of the main research conducted by the Company in 2016, on the natural environment and effects on the physical landscape, can be accessed here:

Published Environmental Reports can be accessed here