Examine the physical processes, economics, and environmental impacts of energy use in Iceland.
Explore Iceland’s renewable energy.
Learn about its natural sources, technology, and social and environmental impacts. You will investigate building a sustainable society, with Iceland serving as the primary example.
Live and study in the beautiful Westfjords region
With its welcoming, tight-knit, and accessible communities and unique energy needs, the Westfjords offer a perfect opportunity for hands-on learning. You’ll stay with a host family in Ísafjörður.
Gain comprehensive knowledge of alternative energy technologies.
You will integrate newfound knowledge about hydroelectric and geothermal power, hydrogen fuel cells, and methane into systems analysis, addressing energy’s local, global, social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental impacts. You will be immersed in a wide variety of applied renewable energy technologies and discuss critical issues with experts.
Learn about Icelandic language and culture
The Introduction to Icelandic course invites you into this ancient language with a fun and active approach. Stories from the age of the Vikings and modern history and literature put Icelandic identity in context. Your homestay with an Icelandic family will be a perfect complement to your language lessons.
Enjoy excursions to scenic and historic sites.
See the UNESCO World Heritage site at Thingvellir; Geysir, the original geyser; spectacular Gullfoss waterfalls; downtown Reykjavík; Sólheimar eco-village; the deserted village Hesteyri; and Haukadalur, setting of a famous Icelandic Saga.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Climate | Environment
Previous college-level coursework or background in engineering, economics, environmental science or studies, or related fields.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Hydroelectric and geothermal power; wind, solar, tidal, and biomass energy; alternative fuels; and resource economics and policy
- Sustainable energy design and implementation within larger sociocultural, economic, and environmental contexts
- The geology behind energy usage and the importance of its sustainable utilization
- The basics of the Icelandic language
Participants in this program develop knowledge of alternative energy technologies, an understanding of the role these technologies play in Iceland’s social and political context, and the ability to apply their knowledge to other situations. Coursework covers hydroelectricity and geothermal energy (the most commonly used renewables in Iceland) in depth, as well as other renewables, and energy economics and policies.
Students engage in classroom and field instruction in the basics of the Icelandic language and learn about the history and culture of the nation.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Renewable Energy, Technology, and Resource Economics Seminar – syllabus
- (ENGR3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course focuses on helping students develop mastery of alternative energy technologies and an understanding of the role these technologies play in Iceland’s social, economic, and political context and how these lessons apply to the larger world. Learning takes place both in the classroom and in the field.
- Icelandic – syllabus
- (ICEL1003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Classroom and field instruction in the basics of the Icelandic language and the ways in which it reflects the sociocultural identity of the nation.
- Renewable Energy, Technology, and Resource Economics Project – syllabus
- (ENGR3060 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this course students are introduced to recent research in renewable energy, technology, and resource economics. Students become familiar with the methodologies employed in energy and sustainability studies. Students select and analyze relevant issues in renewable energy in consultation with program faculty. Each student conducts research with a field study component to produce an original academic paper and presents their results to the class. This course gives students the opportunity to engage more deeply with one of the topics covered in the seminar and to develop their academic skills. Support is provided throughout the project from program faculty.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Exploring the geology of Iceland’s energy
You will explore Iceland’s astonishingly varied landscapes: glaciers, volcanoes, fjords, geothermal fields, lava flows, rugged coastline, and waterfalls. You will experience the power of nature, evident in every aspect of this constantly transforming island. Seeing Iceland’s energy sources will give you an essential understanding of the geology behind energy utilization.
During orientation, you will visit geothermal sites and power plants in the fascinating southwest of Iceland, getting an introduction to the country’s energy production. In the eco-village Sólheimar, you will get a glimpse of one form of a sustainable community.
The south of Iceland and the Golden Circle
At the end of the program, you will go on a short excursion to take in Iceland’s tremendous geological diversity. The program also travels to the famous Golden Circle, which includes the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park. You will discover the beauty and uniqueness of Iceland’s landscape, including volcanoes, glaciers, impressive waterfalls, lava fields, black-sand beaches, and more. You will have time to hike, enjoy Iceland’s flora and fauna, or dip into a relaxing hot spring.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
David Timmons, PhD, Academic Director
David is a renewable energy economist with an MS in community development and applied economics and ecological economics from the University of Vermont and a PhD in environmental economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He first traveled to Iceland as an exchange student from the United States in 1978–1979. In 1982–1983, he studied renewable energy at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales through an SIT program and subsequently worked for SIT for many years as facility manager for the Brattleboro campus. During his summers as a PhD student, he worked with SIT staff and contacts in Iceland to develop this program and served as the academic director for the first three summers of the program in 2007, 2008, and 2009. He has been on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Economics Department and the School for the Environment since 2010. During the 2017–2018 academic year, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Mauritius, teaching and researching renewable energy development in that small tropical island country. His research and teaching interests focus on how society will function when all energy sources are renewable. He approaches the study of renewable energy from an economic perspective, examining the economic, social, and political hindrances to the transition to renewable energy.
Sarah Olson, Program Assistant
Sarah moved to Iceland in 2017 to pursue a master’s degree in environment and natural resources at the University of Iceland, where she is focusing on renewable energy, energy policy, economics, and sustainability. Sarah has spent many years teaching and coordinating outdoor and environmental education programs. In 2012, she earned a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Minnesota. She completed her bachelor’s degree in botany, with a certificate in environmental studies, at the University of Wisconsin.
Lecturers may include:
Brynhildur Davidsdottir, Lecturer on Resource Economics and Policy
Brynhildur is associate professor of environment and natural resources at the University of Iceland and director of the graduate program in environment and natural resources. She advises the Icelandic government on climate change mitigation and chairs the committee overseeing greenhouse gas mitigation. Before joining the University of Iceland in 2006, Brynhildur was an associate at Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts; a lecturer at Boston University; and senior research associate at University of Maryland, College Park. Much of her research has focused on complex systems modeling of energy and environmental policy issues.
S. David Dvorak, PhD, Lecturer on Hydrogen Fuel Cells and Alternative Energy
David is a professor of mechanical engineering technology at the University of Maine and coordinator of the Fuel Cell Systems and Hydrogen Specialization at the School for Renewable Energy Sciences in Akureyri, Iceland. A Fulbright Scholar, he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD in physics from the University of Maine. From 2000 to 2007 he was director of the University of Maine’s School of Engineering Technology. He is a licensed engineer who’s worked in alternative energy for more than 20 years. His interests include fuel cell applications using liquid renewable fuels, control of fuel cell power systems, and polymer electrolyte fuel cell membranes.
Ólafur Guðsteinn Kristjánsson, Icelandic Instructor
Ólafur is an Icelandic lecturer and translator. He received his BA in comparative literature in 2004 from the University of Iceland. He lived in Berlin, Germany, studying philosophy and German literature and teaching Icelandic, but has more recently moved to Croatia. Ólafur has also been a translator and a freelance journalist for Morgunblaðið and other Icelandic publications. Since 2010, Ólafur has taught summer Icelandic language and culture courses at the University Centre of the Westfjords. He has extensive experience teaching groups, from beginner to advanced levels.
I could see firsthand how the sustainable practices we learned about were being used in a real-world setting...
I could see firsthand how the sustainable practices we learned about were being used in a real-world setting, which made the goal of a sustainable society seem much more feasible rather than just some far-off vision.
Renewable Energy Project
Renewable Energy Project
The project gives you the opportunity to engage deeply with a topic of interest to you and to develop your research skills through the support you’ll receive from program faculty throughout the project. You will be introduced to recent research and learn methodologies employed in energy and sustainability studies. Then, in consultation with faculty, you’ll choose and analyze a relevant issue in renewable energy. You’ll conduct independent primary research, produce an original academic paper, and present your results to the class.
Past student projects:
- A stakeholder analysis of tidal power potential in the Westfjords
- A feasibility analysis of rapeseed biodiesel for the Icelandic fishing fleet
- A proposal for alternative energy systems for the island of Grímsey
- Paradoxes in Icelandic ecological intelligence and environmental behavior
- The potential for consumer engagement in smart grid technologies in the Westfjords
- A wind resource assessment for Ísafjörður
- A study of hydrogen sulfide emissions from geothermal power plants
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
Become a part of Icelandic culture and community.
For two weeks, you will live with a host family in Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords region. Host families typically live near the University Centre of the Westfjords, where classes are held.
Staying with an Icelandic family will give you insight into Icelanders’ everyday life, culture, and language. You will see how energy issues affect daily life and get to discuss these issues with your hosts around the dinner table, an important part of Icelandic life. The homestay is typically one of the most meaningful experiences of the program.
Ísafjörður is a town of about 2,500 on a narrow spit of land in the fjord Skutulsfjörður, surrounded by mountains and the sea. The town is an urban center in the remote Westfjords, offering services such as a hospital, schools, cafés, and arts venues.
A traditional fishing town, Ísafjörður has in the past few decades expanded into knowledge-based industries and nature-based tourism. Ísafjörður and the Westfjords are only visited by a low percentage of tourists to Iceland and remain off the beaten track.
Other accommodations include dormitories and hostels.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who instruct students in:
- Renewable energy technologies
- Resource economics and energy policies
- Icelandic language
- All educational excursions within the Westfjords, the Golden Circle, other key geological sites, and energy production facilities throughout the country
- Educational tours and meetings with renewable energy experts
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $2,475
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Ísafjörður), time in Reykjavík, on all excursions, and during the evaluation period.
- All meals for the entire program period (including homestay). Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad, directly or through a stipend.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Airfare to Program Site
Airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Books & Supplies: $100
International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.