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Could Norway Serve As Europe’s Green Battery?

The Hydraulic Laboratory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology is looking at how to transform the country’s hydropower network into a giant European green battery.

In a lengthy piece published on Gemini — a site dedicated to publishing up-to-date research news from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway’s main science and engineering university, and SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research group — Kaspar Vereide at the Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering explains the work being done in the Hydraulic Laboratory at NTNU.

Among the many highlights that make NTNU’s enormous Hydraulic Laboratory so impressive are models of hydroelectric dams and water tunnels, a miniature version of Norway’s Geiranger fjord which helps researchers study tsunami effects on land for when the Åknes mountain massif eventually breaks apart and tumbles into the bay, and a brand new mini power plant, a 1:65 scale copy of Norway’s Torpa hydropower plant.

In fact, it is this new mini power plant — which is not so very mini, with 147 meters worth of piping — that could be key, says Kaspar Vereide, “to transforming Norway’s hydropower network into an international resource, a green battery that could soak up Europe’s excess wind and solar power and release it on demand.”

Vereide designed the model, which is the world’s first model of a waterway with an air-cushioned surge chamber, the design behind the big thinking coming out of the Hydraulic Laboratory.

The concept is naturally simple, though the specifics are detailed and are the focus of Vereide’s work. With a total of 937 hydropower stations currently built, Norway derives 96% of its electricity from hydropower, making it the sixth largest hydropower producer in the world — though the relationship between population (only 5 million people) and their global hydropower supremacy makes them a standout in that list.

4076659909_95e5f0b894_zHowever, Norway has the potential to generate a lot more electricity from hydropower, and could become Europe’s “green battery.” Specifically, excess energy from Europe’s solar arrays and wind farms could be sent to Norway to generate the power needed to pump water up from lower reservoirs to higher ones, at which time energy can be generated down the track by releasing the water from the higher reservoirs to rush through the hydropower turbines to generate electricity and send it back out wherever its needed.

The full article is well worth a read, as it delves in to the difficulties Vereide is attempting to overcome with his work, and the solutions he has already discovered.

Image Credit: Reinsfors dam, Statkraft via Flickr

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