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Switching to electricity – a stroke of genius

Switching Icelandic fishmeal plants to run on electricity has been under some scrutiny recently, but the result is that it is now possible to produce high-quality fishmeal and fish oil in five factories, powered by locally-generated electricity instead imported oil. HB Grandi’s fishmeal production plant in Vopnafjördur was at the forefront of this innovation two years ago and according to factory manager Sveinbjörn Sigmundsson, the benefits of switching to electrical power have been much greater than he could have hoped for.

‘We started work on the construction of a new boiler house for an electrical boiler in Vopnafjördur two years ago, as part of the new factory that was being built then. The electric boiler system was inaugurated in 2009 and to begin with this was run alongside the oil-fired steam driers. The switch to electricity was complete in 2010 with the addition of electrically-powered air dryers that were first used during the capelin season in early 2011,’ he said.

An agreement was reached with power provider Orkuveita Reykjavíkur for ‘non-guaranteed’ power, which means that the National Grid can if necessary reduce the delivery of power to the factory. Sveinbjörn Sigmundsson said that their co-operation with the National Electricity Network has been excellent and the plant has not suffered any serious power shortfalls in spite of the difficulties due to adverse weather last winter. It is possible to reduce the plant’s power requirement rapidly if there are problems with the power delivery network. To make it possible to respond even faster, the decision was taken to set up direct links between the factory and staff using a Tetra system, similar to those used by police and rescue squads, and this is manned day and night.

‘In fact we can say that switching to electricity at Vopnafjördur was pure genius. All systems management became simpler, plus it’s much cheaper to us electrical power than oil, and in addition we are using power generated locally instead of imported fuel, so there is a saving in foreign currency, which is a benefit to the country as a whole,’ he commented.