As one of world’s largest exporters of oil and gas, Norway has long held itself responsible for tackling problems caused by climate change. The Government’s carbon-neutral pledge is the most visible evidence of that commitment, but Norway’s dedication to solving climate problems is both broad and deep, particularly when it comes to research and development in power generation.
“Norway will be an environmentally friendly energy nation, and will be a world leader in the development of environmentally friendly energy technologies,” Guri Størvold, state secretary for the Oil and Energy Department, said in late January at a wind power conference in Trondheim. “We are in an excellent position to do this – with power generated by wind, waves, water, or salinity ... the solution is renewable energy.”
Strong governmental and societal interest in renewable energy have led to comprehensive research and development projects at Norway’s universities, research institutes and industries; ranging from hydrogen, bioenergy, windpower and solar cell technology research at the Centre for Renewable Energy, a cooperative among the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), SINTEF and the Institute for Energy Research (IFE), to new offshore wind technology development at private companies such as Chapdrive, Lyse and OWEC Tower.
Because of its ready availability in Norway, wind is the renewable resource that has recently attracted the most attention. In fact, the January climate agreement brought an extra NOK 150 million for an offshore windmill demonstration project, as just one example. But wind is only part of the equation: another NOK 70 million will be spent in 2008 on additional renewable energy and carbon sequestration research, with that amount increasing to NOK 300 million by 2009 and to a minimum of NOK 600 million by 2010.
As Oil and Energy Department State Secretary Guri Størvold says, “It is not a question of whether renewable energy will come, but when it will come.”
OWEC Tower has built two towers for wind turbines installed in the Beatrice oilfield off the coast of Scotland.
© REpower Systems AG
Working Smarter, Saving Energy
By far and away, the largest renewable energy related programme in Norway is Enova, which in 2008 had a budget of NOK 1 450 million, an increase of NOK 660 million over 2007 funding levels. Oil and Energy Minister Åslaug Haga says the increase in support reflects the Norwegian Government’s determination to establish the country as a leader in the production of environmentally friendly energy resources. “This increased budget in 2008, which will promote efficient energy use, and heating and electricity from renewable energy resources, is one of the cornerstones in the Government’s efforts to guarantee that Norway is an environmentally friendly energy nation,” Haga says.
Enova’s successful efficiency projects cover everything from large industries to family-owned businesses. Norske Skog in Skogn, one of the world’s largest producers of newsprint paper, was the beneficiary of an Enova project that began in 2007 and will finish in 2011, with the goal of cutting the company’s energy consumption by 250 GWh. The company has invested NOK 300 million in efficiency upgrades, with Enova’s contribution totalling NOK 50 million. Another recent Enova project involved Hennig-Olsen Is AS, a family-owned ice cream company in Kristiansand that made nearly 25 million litres of ice cream in 2005. Hennig-Olsen was granted NOK 580,000 from Enova towards the purchase of hybrid heat pump. “Our calculations say that this heat pump will enable us to save 2 million kWh per year,” says Jarl Westergård, the company’s project leader.
All told, Enova supported Norwegian businesses and industries with more than NOK 200 million in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available. That investment paid considerable dividends, saving 900 GWh in the same year.
Energy 21: Clean Energy for the Future
In early February 2008, Oil and Energy Minister Åslaug Haga took delivery of a comprehensive energy report called Energy 21, which was commissioned by Haga’s predecessor Odd Roger Enoksen. In delivering the report, Energy 21 chairman Sverre Gotaas, Innovation Director for Statkraft AS, said that comprehensive investments in renewable energy could help transform Norway into a green energy exporter. “In 20 years we can double Norwegian production of renewable energy to 240 TWh with a great percentage of Norwegian suppliers. The potential for building a new industry is enormous. Norway’s oil and gas industry resulted in a blossoming of Norwegian technology suppliers. There’s nothing that prevents us from doing the same with renewable energy,” Gotaas says.
The report calls for a national focus on five critical areas; energy efficiency, climate friendly power, CO2 neutral heating, flexible energy systems and a supportive energy and business climate. Additionally, the report recommends a doubling of the Oil and Energy Department’s research and development funding in 2009, with public investments increasing to at least NOK 400 million per year, which together with private investing should result in a minimum of NOK 2.4 billion in energy-related R&D.
The Research Council of Norway already supports RENERGI, which focuses on clean energy production for the future, with an annual budget of approximately NOK 150 million, and CLIMIT, which is managed jointly by the research council and Gassnova SF to develop gas power technologies with CO2 capture and storage (CCS), with an annual budget of approximately NOK 130 million. Both of these programmes include cooperative projects with industry, which substantially leverages the funds supplied by the research council.
At the Centre for Renewable Energy, the cooperative between NTNU, SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest private research institute, and the Institute for Energy Research (IFE), a RENERGI project is allowing researchers to look at creative ways of developing wind farm networks on the Norwegian continental shelf that would both power Norway’s offshore oil platforms and ship power to the Norwegian electric grid.
Chapdrive AS has also worked cooperatively with the Centre for Renewable Energy and Viva AS on a NOK 7.5 million project to reduce the weight of turbines that would be needed in large offshore wind tower structures; about a third of the budget is from RENERGI. By using hydraulic pumps and motors, the groups have succeeded in cutting back weight at the top of the tower where it is commonly located, near the blades.
Offshore wind farms are a promising area for new renewable power generation.
© Paul Sigve Amundsen; Montasje: Tone Kvenild/NTNU Info
Natural Resources: More than just Oil
Everyone knows that Norway’s most valuable natural resources lie in the giant petroleum reservoirs under the North Sea – but wind energy researchers like John Olav Tande, with SINTEF Energy Research, have a decidedly different view of things. Norway’s long, crenulated coastline makes an ideal location for harvesting the strong winds that can blow off of the North Atlantic. “Norway has tremendous physical potential,” he says.
Tande and others estimate that land-based windmills alone could generate in excess of 1,000 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, or nearly five times Norway’s net domestic energy consumption of approximately 225 TWh. Already, land-based windmill projects owned by Statkraft AS, Europe’s second largest provider of renewably generated electricity, churn out megawatts from wind farms in Smøla and Hitra in mid-Norway, and Kjøllefjord in northernmost Finnmark. Statkraft, Agder Energy AS of Kristiansand and Lyse of Stavanger also have pending applications to build a number of wind parks across the land.
But wind power doesn’t have to be limited to the countryside. In fact, far more wind can be harvested if wind turbines are built in the ocean, whether as turbines fixed to the ocean floor, or floating in the deep ocean. All told, the potential available in Norway’s offshore wind resources is a whopping 14,000 TWh per year, SINTEF’s Tande estimates. “Norway could be a big exporter of renewable energy in addition to oil and gas,” he says. “This offers us a unique possibility for developing a new industry in a global market.”
Wind Enterprises Expand
Virtually all of Norway’s electricity comes from hydropower installations like this one owned by Statkraft AS.
Norway is already home to key industrial wind power stakeholders, such as ScanWind, which builds large wind turbines; StatoilHydro, which is working on Hywind, a floating wind turbine technology, and SWAY, which has its own floating technology; while Aker Kværner, Nexans, Devold AMT AS, Umoe are all large subcontractors providing a number of key components for wind turbines.
The market is sufficiently attractive that the Grieg Group, and Scatec AS, a Norwegian technology company started by the giant REC solar cell company founder Alf Bjørseth, have joined forces to develop offshore wind energy through a company called NorWind; the companies have also jointly invested in OWEC Tower AS of Bergen. While NorWind doesn’t have any wind farms on the immediate horizon, in late 2007, Lyse applied for a pilot project that would allow the testing of five offshore wind turbines not far from the town of Utsira. And early in 2008, the company said it would like to build a wind park in the North Sea 130 km southwest of Lista. If all goes according to plan, Lyse would begin construction of the 200-turbine, 1,000 MW wind park in 2014.
Developing wind turbines that can withstand the strong stresses in the open ocean requires considerable technological expertise. That’s where Norway’s previous experiences working with oil platforms in the North Sea give the country a specific advantage. For example, in partnership with the IFE, Marintek, NTNU, Statkraft, Hydro, Statnett and Lyse, SINTEF Energy Research is coordinating an NOK 18 million project called “Deep sea offshore wind turbine technology.”
A key aspect of the project involves the use of Norway’s advanced testing facilities, particularly at SINTEF and NTNU, where researchers can take advantage of everything from Marintek’s 50 x 80 metre Ocean Basin Laboratory, capable of submitting scale model wind turbines to severe battering by wind and waves; to a wind tunnel, a materials fatigue testing laboratory and an electronics laboratory.
Even the best wind turbines won’t perform optimally if they aren’t located in the right places. That’s where the Tønsberg company Windsim has made its mark, by developing a 3D-simulator that can be used to find the best locations to site wind farms. A correctly sited wind turbine can increase its energy production by as much as 10%, says Windsim founder Arne Reidar Gravdahl. The programme also helps calculate the correct height for the turbines.
Let the Sun Shine
Norway may be the land of the midnight sun, but it’s not necessarily the sunniest place on the planet. That does not deter the Norwegians – R&D related to solar cell technology is big business here, as evidenced by the presence of REC, the Renewable Energy Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of multi-crystalline silicon wafers for solar cells. In late 2007, for example, REC signed a NOK 4 billion wafer sales contract with Solland Solar Cells BV, under which REC will deliver silicon wafers to the Dutch company until 2015.
REC’s success is due in no small part to the inventive genius of Alf Bjørseth, who founded a series of solar energy companies that later merged to become REC. Bjørseth saw an opportunity while at Elkem AS, one of the world’s largest producers of pure silicon, in the early 1990s: solar cells need pure silicon, and Elkem had a ready source of the stuff, so why not build the basic components for solar cells in Norway? Bjørseth founded his own solar cell wafer producing company, ScanWafer AS in 1994, and the rest, as they say, is history. While Bjørseth retired as REC’s CEO in 2005, he hasn’t stopped in his pursuit of renewable energy resources; his company Scatec continues to allow him to develop new business ideas for renewable energy and advanced materials.
Norway’s leading edge in solar cell technology has been bolstered by research efforts at SINTEF and NTNU, with the two research groups working together in the PV-Solar Cell Materials Gemini Centre, which includes a joint laboratory facility called “Heliosi”. The facility includes a casting and clean room laboratory; pilot scale equipment for the metallurgical production and refining of silicon feedstock, including a rotary plasma furnace; and an etching and preparation laboratory where ingots can be cut, polished and etched. The group also has started working on a nano-level, with thin films and quantum structures.
Some of the most cutting-edge solar cell research at NTNU is looking at using a greater percentage of the sun’s energy than is currently used. Solar cell technology now only converts visible light into electricity, or just 17% of the sun’s energy. If solar cells could also use the infrared spectrum, cells would be able to use fully 50% of the sun’s energy spectrum.
Other companies, such as SolarNor AS, have developed solar heating technologies in which roof mounted panels allow the sun’s heat to be absorbed and stored, to be used as hot water and as a home heating source.
Dreams of Hydrogen, Biofuel & Energy from the Sea
Wind farms will be sprouting across Norway’s landscape as the country moves to take advantage of its wind power resources, which are some of the best in Europe.
Norway’s main renewable energy R&D focus has been wind and solar energy, but research into other options is ongoing as well. Across the globe, hydrogen power has been of great interest as a possible transportation fuel. Norway has explored this possibility with the development of HyNor, a Norwegian joint industry hydrogen infrastructure demonstration project along a 580-kilometre route from Oslo to Stavanger. The development of the highway is such that Mazda, the Japanese car manufacturer, selected the HyNor route in late 2007 as a test road for their new hydrogen-powered cars.
In recognition of the progress being made in hydrogen research, the Norwegian Transportation Department has increased its research and development budget for hydrogen projects to NOK 29 million in 2008, up from NOK 23 million in 2007.
Biofuel is another renewable energy resource that is just beginning to attract more research attention in Norway, spurred in part by a RENERGI Foresight Report issued in 2007, which observed that Norway’s enormous forest and biomass resources were largely underused as a biofuel source. While researchers at SINTEF are at work on an NOK 250 million EU project on the development and use of bioenergy, Norwegian companies have been moving ahead to expand the markets for these products. With support from Innovation Norway, for example, Esta in Trøndelag has become Norway’s first producer of biodiesel from salmon waste. Another private company called Uniol AS is also ramping up its biodiesel production from a plant in Fredrikstad, with the goal of producing 100 million litres of biodiesel for the Scandinavian market.
A company called Cambi AS of Asker has developed a Thermal Hydrolysis Process (THP) for anaerobic digestion of municipal and industrial sludge and bio-waste, which also allows for the production of biogas. Cambi THP plants can be combined with cogeneration plants, which produce green electricity and provide hot steam for the Thermal Hydrolysis Process. The biogas can also be cleaned to be used as vehicle fuel or as a replacement for natural gas.
Waves and tides also offer potential energy sources, providing that cost-effective techniques can be developed to harness the power they represent. WAVEenergy AS of Aalgard is developing the Seawave Slot-Cone generator (SSG) concept, a wave energy converter that uses three reservoirs placed on top of each other, in which the potential energy of the incoming wave is stored. The company has support from Enova, RENERGI and the European Union. A NOK 20 million pilot installation is planned for Kvitsøy.
Another company that is pioneering the use of ocean energy is Hammerfest Strøm, which is among the leaders in developing tidal power generation. In 2002 the company installed a 300 kW turbine, powered by underwater propellers, at the bottom of Kval Sound, outside of Hammerfest. The turbine house for the structure is 50 metres under the water, and the propellers have a diameter of 22 metres. The test has ended, and the company is now working to bring power production costs to around 30 øre/kWh, and is looking for partners to help with the commercialization of the technology.
Statkraft also has its toe in the water, so to speak, in a partnership with Hydra Tidal Energy Technology (HTET). A pilot project is situated in a different Kval Sound outside of Tromsø. The company’s concept is based on a floating, anchored steel structure that produces electricity when tidewaters drive four large turbines. The hope is to produce approximately 3.6 GWh per year.
REC manufactures wafers for solar cells at its Herøya, Norway plant. The company is the world’s largest manufacturer of multi-crystalline silicon wafers for solar cells.
© Damian Heinisch
Saving the World
Renewable energy is all about the future, with new structures and technologies built to supply the energy demands of the 21st century. That is fine for the future, but what can we do now? Climate change is no longer thought to be an unproven theory; glaciers are melting and temperatures are rising. Norwegian researchers are not only on the cutting-edge of developing renewable energy resources, but are at the forefront of helping develop carbon neutral technologies that will enable the use of conventional fossil fuels without damaging the environment.
The showcase for Norwegian efforts in this area has long been StatoilHydro’s Sleipner field, the world’s longest running commercial carbon dioxide storage project, where more than 10 million tonnes of CO2 have been deposited in a capped sandstone formation 1000 metres below the sea floor on the Norwegian continental shelf. That only represents the beginning of the actions Norway is taking to succeed in this critical aspect of energy production.
The Research Council of Norway’s CLIMIT programme, which is jointly administered by Gassnova SF, has funded a number of innovative research and development projects on CO2 capture and storage. One such project is called BIGCLC, a 4-year, NOK 19 million cooperative effort between NTNU, SINTEF, Shell, Statkraft, StatoilHydro, Total, Conoco Phillips, Aker Kværner, Alstom and DLR are working on developing a chemical looping process, which involves running exhaust from coal- or oil-fired plants through two chemical reactors to remove the CO2. The research group is currently building a pilot-scale reactor in Trondheim. The ultimate goal of the research is to capture CO2 at a cost of under NOK 240 per tonne, with an energy loss of no more than 6% as compared to a conventional power plant without CO2 capture.
The Gas Technology Centre, a cooperative effort between SINTEF and NTNU, is working with the University of Oslo, and the Cicero Centre for Climate Research on a CLIMIT cutting-edge carbon capture project called BIGCO2, which had a NOK 14 million budget in 2007 and a NOK 12.5 million budget in 2008. Its industrial partners include StatoilHydro, Statkraft Development, Aker Kværner and General Electric Global Research. The goal of the effort is to examine CO2 capture and storage from the capture of the gas at the power plant to its eventual storage and sequestration. “We have a two-part goal,” says SINTEF’s Nils A. Røkke. “We’ll develop our expertise, to increase the likelihood that CO2 free gas power plants can be built in Norway. Additionally, participants will get value out of the programme by being able to deliver products and processes for these kinds of facilities.”
SINTEF is also in charge of the European Union’s newest research project on CO2 handling from coal and gas fired power plants. The project, called DECARBit, has 14 partners from eight lands, and a four year budget of NOK 120 million, of which between NOK 30 and 40 million will support research at SINTEF and NTNU. The group’s kick-off meeting was held in early 2008 in Trondheim.
REC has become an important employer with its ScanCell plant in Narvik, northern Norway.
© Damian Heinisch
It is not just research institutions that are taking the challenge of CO2 capture seriously. In late January 2008, the Norwegian industrial group Aker ASA announced plans to invest NOK 875 million in a facility to capture carbon dioxide at a power plant to be built in Kårstø. The plant is expected to begin operations in 2009. Aker’s efforts reflect the fact that carbon dioxide capture and storage, while not required now, will someday be an accepted part of any fossil fuel power plant. “The objective is the development of construction methods and effective execution models that make carbon sequestration so inexpensive that it become cheaper to clean emissions than to pollute,” Aker says of the project.
Norway’s efforts to capture and store CO2 have attracted the attention of the United States, which produces fully 25 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. In late January 2008, James Connaughton, environmental advisor to President George W. Bush, met with Norway’s Environment and Development Minister Erik Solheim and Bellona head Frederic Hauge. “There’s quite a bit of movement in the US to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Connaughton said to reporters in Oslo after the meeting. “But to combat climate change will require new technologies. Capture and storage of CO2 will be important, and Norway has taken a leadership role inCO2 capture and storage.”
RENERGI (Future Clean Energy Systems) is one of the Research Council of Norway’s large-scale programmes. The programme finances projects that develop knowledge and solutions as the basis for environment-friendly, efficient and effective management of the country’s energy resources, along with security of supply and internationally competitive economic development related to the energy sector.
For more information on the RENERGI programme, visit