Student profiles

A few of ISE's students answer some questions about their study experience and living in Iceland.

  • Hjörleifur sitting in Sky Lagoon

Current Students

Hjörleifur Þór Steingrímsson, Iceland

Sustainable Energy Engineering, Class of 2022

Name: Hjörleifur Þór Steingrímsson
Age: 27
Hometown: Flúðir, Iceland
Academic Background: B.Sc. Applied Mechanical and Energy Engineering from Reykjavik University
Major & Class: Sustainable Energy Engineering, Class of 2022

Could you share with us a little bit about where you are from and your academic journey before attending Iceland School of Energy?

I grew up in Iceland on my grandparents' farm; it had both horses and cows. Then I moved sometime when I was around fourteen years old with my parents to the town Flúðir where I spent the rest of my time before undergraduate studies. When I was thinking about what I might want to study at university, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do but I knew I enjoyed building things and working on hands-on projects. I also had always been interested in energy; especially hydropower since I had lived close to hydropower plants. Because of this, I attended Reykjavik University and graduated with my B.Sc. in Applied Mechanical and Energy Engineering.

 Why did you choose Iceland School of Energy for your graduate studies?

I heard about the master's program in sustainable energy engineering while I was still studying for my bachelor's at Reykjavik University, and knew I wanted to apply given my interest in energy.

Do you have an idea of what you'd like to do after you graduate from Iceland School of Energy?

I had always been mostly interested in hydropower and wind power and focused a lot of my studies in these fields. I realized I wasn't as passionate about wind as I had thought but still found hydropower interesting. But, funny enough, I didn't think I'd be very interested in geothermal. I thought district heating was cool but not so much high temperature geothermal projects. But then I worked at an internship that involved geothermal and realized it's actually very interesting. It just goes to show you that you don't always know what you want to do until you do it!

How true! Would you mind telling us about your internship experience?

I interned for a company called Varmaorka during the summer. Varmaorka builds and operates low temperature, binary geothermal power plants which are used to generate electricity and support district heating. The plants utilize hot water coming from the ground at around 120°C. It's a relatively small company and so I had the opportunity to work on many different projects and tasks: from helping to ensure plant operations were running smoothly, to cleaning filters, creating plant models, and gathering and interpreting geology data for prospecting. I also worked with a geologist and assisted them by gathering and interpreting Icelandic datasets. We'd also welcome visitors to the plants and I would show them around and explain how everything works. At one point, Iceland School of Energy came into the plant for a field trip.

What has been the greatest takeaway you've acquired from studying at Iceland School of Energy?

I think the most useful skill I took from my studies is the learning process...I learned how to learn. You become familiar with the effort that it takes to truly understand a topic like geothermal energy. And you learn to investigate each and every aspect of the subject and acquire the discipline required to do it. When it comes down to it, you can't just have a surface level understanding of something when you are in a technical role. You need to first understand the difficulties and challenges that exist in the real world, and then how to gain the knowledge you need to solve those challenges.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

My plan is to live and work in the industry in Iceland. I would consider working on individual projects abroad but would like to stay in Iceland. There are so many opportunities here.

What do you enjoy about living in Iceland?

In the past I had lived for about six months in Sweden, and this is when I realized some of the things that I appreciated and missed about Iceland. I ended up missing some Icelandic products, the community swimming pools, and unlimited heat supply.

What are you working on for your master's thesis?

I'm focusing on the modeling of binary power plants for low temperature fields, and I'm investigating how various setups of binary units and working fluids would work given different resources. I'm current creating a model using Python, with a thermodynamic library called CoolProp to create a basic binary plant model with varied conditions to uncover the theoretical maximum output with differing resources. The model is highly flexible and can be used to try out different scenarios and working fluids, predicting and estimating power outputs.  

To all the potential students and professionals of the world considering graduate studies, why should they choose Iceland?

When it comes to Iceland, it's a small society with a lot of energy capacity per person. Communication chains are much shorter and network connections are just a hop away. It's much easier to reach out to industry professionals, get access to real data, and to see the technology up close so you can get a feel for how things work in the real world. This is especially true in Reykjavik where you can find many plants within just two hours of driving.

About Iceland School of Energy

By bringing together the best from industry and academia, Iceland School of Energy provides a unique, and comprehensive training for its students. A wide range of courses taught by the very best in their field open a broad spectrum of possibilities for students and allow for individual study designs. Focus is put on close collaboration with industry experts while maintaining high academic quality of the work.

Iceland School of Energy is part of and accredited by the School of Science and Engineering at Reykjavik University in Iceland.

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