Norway could be Europe’s ‘green battery’

Norway could become the “green battery of Europe” by using its hydropower plants to provide instant extra electricity if production from wind and solar power sources in other countries fade.

Norway could be Europe's 'green battery'
A dam in Norway managed by the state-owned power company Statkraft: Photo: Google Photos/Statkraft
Without building any new power stations, engineers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)  believe it would be possible to use the existing network to instantly boost European supplies and avoid other countries having to switch on fossil fuel plants to make up shortfalls.
Norway has 937 hydropower plants, which provide 96 percent of its electricity, making it the sixth largest hydropower producer in the world — despite having a population of only five million.
Europe already has 400 million people in 24 countries connected to a single grid, with power surpluses from one country being exported to neighbours or imported as national needs change.
Supply and demand
As more and more renewables are installed across the continent, the problem of balancing supply and demand gets more difficult.
Because supply from wind and sun sources fluctuates, the grid needs back-up plants to keep the power constant. At present, this means that many countries have to keep gas and coal plants on standby to make up any shortage.
However, the Hydraulic Laboratory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim believes it can engineer the country’s vast power plants so that they can themselves be a giant standby battery that can be turned on and off.
When there is surplus wind or solar power in Europe, the electricity it generates can be imported to pump water uphill to keep re-filling the Norwegian reservoirs. This is, in effect, electricity that is stored, because when energy is needed again the generators can be turned back on to produce hydropower.
“Norwegian mountains are full of water tunnels. It’s like an anthill.”
The problem at the moment is that even hydropower is not instant. This is because water takes time to flow through the vast network of pipes and the turbines to reach the correct speed to provide stable power to the grid at the correct frequency of alternating current.
Norway currently has more kilometres of pipes carrying water to its hydroelectricity plants than it has miles of road, so controlling the flow is the key.
But Kaspar Vereide, a doctoral student in the department of hydraulic and environmental engineering at NTNU, has designed a model solution, with funding from the Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy.
By creating a sealed surge chamber in rock close to the turbines, engineers can feed electricity, at the right frequency, into the grid immediately. The empty chamber contains air that is compressed as the space is filled with water. So, when the valves are open, the water can instantly turn turbines at the correct speed.
Vereide says: “Norwegian mountains are full of water tunnels. It’s like an anthill.”
The length of the waterway, he says, can be many kilometres, though this will require the engineers to accelerate the water to reach the turbines.
His solution involves blowing out a cavern inside the water tunnel near the turbine where the electricity is to be generated, creating a surge chamber where water at the correct velocity can reach the turbines immediately.
Fluctuations in power
He admits that his design is still at the early stages of development. The surge chambers have to be designed to avoid fluctuations in power needs, which can cause uncontrolled blowouts of air into the power plants, risking damage.
“We have to be able to control these load fluctuations that occur,” he says. “Among other things, it’s important to determine how big surge chambers need to be to function best. My task is to figure out the optimal design for the chambers.”
Vereide says that plants have traditionally been run very smoothly and quietly, with few stops and starts to create these fluctuations. But to become the green battery of Europe, the power plants would need to be started and stopped much more often — and then the problem of load fluctuations would increase significantly.
“We’ll benefit a lot from developing these new technologies, both in order to keep electrical frequency stable and to run power plants more aggressively to serve a large market,” he says. – Climate News Network
This article was originally published on Climate News Network. Read the original article here.

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‘Heroes of Telemark’ dam is world heritage site

The hydroelectric dam sabotaged in the Kirk Douglas war film The Heroes of Telemark has been named as the centre of a new world heritage site by the UN’s cultural arm Unesco.

'Heroes of Telemark' dam is world heritage site
Kirk Douglas plays Dr Rolf Pedersen in The Heroes of Telemark. Photo: Screen grab

“The Rjukan-Notodden site manifests an exceptional combination of industrial assets and themes associated to the natural landscape,” Unesco declared in the entry on its website naming the area as one of its 2015 sites.  “It  stands out as an example of a new global industry in the early 20th century.”

The Vemork power station, the core of the Rjukan-Notodden industrial complex, was built by Norsk Hydro in 1911 to power a fertiliser factory and a series of other industrial plants.

The most dramatic chapter in the history of the area came during the German occupation of Norway in the Second World War, when the Norwegian resistance movement sabotaged it to prevent the deuterium oxide, or ‘heavy water’, produced by the plant being used to make German atomic bombs.

In 1965, the story of the Norwegian saboteurs was made into the film Heroes of Telemark, which the American director Anthony Mann shot on location in Telemark.

As Mann’s film was only very loosely based on the real events, earlier this year Norwegian broadcaster NRK aired a drama series, “the Heavy Water War”, that stayed as true to the real events as possible.


“This is a fantastic day for Telemark,” Telemark mayor Terje Riis-Johansen told NRK. “This gives us the opportunity to let the whole world know about the unique industrial history we have.”  


Jørn Christensen, chairman of Notodden Municipality, told the broadcaster that the industrial complex was greater than the Taj Mahal in India.


”I think ours is greater. Ours is eighty kilometres long and stretches all the way from Møsvann dam to Notodden, so this is no joke,” he said before the UNESCO application had been approved.  


The establishment of Rjukan-Notodden arguably marked the beginning of the Norwegian industrial revolution, as it was the first place hydroelectricity was used to power  large scale industry.