Iceland: Renewable Energy, Technology, and Resource Economics (Summer)

“The program gave us a unique opportunity to learn about renewable energy and sustainability through our coursework while simultaneously exposing us to an environment where our knowledge was overwhelmingly applicable. There is nowhere else in the world that allows for such open exploration of renewable energy practices both in and outside of the classroom."

-- Evan Blom, program alum

Examine the physical processes of energy utilization as well as the economics and environmental impacts of energy use across diverse regions of Iceland.

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This program explores all aspects of renewable energy: from its sources in nature, to its technological utilization, to its social and environmental impacts. With lectures from interdisciplinary faculty, students investigate what it means to create a sustainable society, with Iceland serving as the primary case example. Students enjoy extraordinary access to experts, unique experience in the field, and exemplary support from program staff.

Learning from the Icelandic experience
Iceland is a world leader in developing the use of renewable energy. While this is partly attributable to the country's ample endowment of geothermal and hydroelectric resources, it's also attributable to Icelanders' making unique economic choices, valuing the social benefits of energy independence differently than much of the world. Students gain insight from the Icelandic experience that can be applied elsewhere.

Exploring Reykjanes geothermal power plant

Exploring the Westfjords, Reykjavík, and Iceland’s Highlands
The program is based in the Westfjords region where students study at the University Centre of the Westfjords and experience life in the tight-knit community of Ísafjörður amid dramatic fjords and mountains.

The program also spends time in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, the center of policymaking, where students meet with firms, agencies, and activists shaping the course of renewable energy in Iceland.

During excursions along Iceland’s Ring Road, students take in amazing landscapes of Iceland’s highlands and coast.

Students on this program gain a thorough and deep understanding of critical topics in renewable energy, technology, and resource economics and policy. The Individual Study Project gives students the opportunity to delve into their own academic interests while conducting research with support from experts in the field. Review complete program syllabi.

Learning Icelandic language and culture
Students become familiar with Icelandic through the language course, designed for learners of all abilities. Learning Icelandic—which is distantly related to English and has changed very little in the thousand years since Iceland was settled—provides additional insights into Icelandic culture and elucidates course topics. Students discover more about Icelandic culture during the homestay in Ísafjörður.

Why study renewable energy in Iceland?

Caitlin Wilson, academic director of the program from 2010 to 2014, explains:

In the minds of many, Iceland conjures up images of pristine nature, clean water and air, and progressive energy policy and practice. This reputation is built on a history of innovation, first sparked by the oil crisis of the 1970s, which inspired Iceland to transform its power from fossil fuels to renewables — notably geothermal and hydropower.

Over the next decades, Iceland successfully converted public heating and electricity to 85 percent renewable. The transportation sector still relies on fossil fuels, but Iceland is working rigorously to become completely energy independent by 2050, exploring alternative fuels including hydrogen, methane, and biofuel.

There is no other place on Earth with a comparable combination of renewable energy resources, history of sustainable development, and commitment to progress for the greater good. The economic crisis of 2008 has actually motivated Iceland to think even more carefully about its long-term future, by developing a national plan towards sustainability focused on energy independence and nature conservation.

The SIT Iceland program offers students the extraordinary opportunity of experiencing all of this firsthand, on site. Program lecturers are the top experts in their fields and are eager to guide students and share their special knowledge of this uniquely important topic and place. The program itself is crafted to take students on a journey of discovery, giving insight into the character of perhaps the most progressive nation in the world.

A conversation with Iceland alumna Nneka Walker (Birmingham-Southern College)
Learn how Nneka is incorporating themes from the program back into her coursework and life in the US.

Costs Dates

Credits: 9

Duration: 7 weeks

Program Base: Westfjords

Language Study: Icelandic

Prerequisites: Previous college-level coursework or other significant preparation in engineering, economics, environmental studies, or related fields, as assessed by SIT. Read more...


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Summer 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Summer 2012 Evaluations (PDF)
Summer 2011 Evaluations (PDF)

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