Ambitious Plan to Redevelop Norway's Exisiting Hydropower Plants Could Pay Big Dividends
The search for a greener solution to our energy demands continues, but an academic in Norway thinks he has the perfect answer to Europe’s woes. He wants to turn Norway’s existing hydropower infrastructure into a super “green battery,” that would store excess energy generated elsewhere in Europe and release it on demand. The concept is basically simple, wind and solar plants throughout Europe need a reliable way to store the excess energy they produce, this electricity could be sent to Norway and be used to pump water from lower reservoirs to higher reservoirs. Then, when this power was required, the Norwegians can open the sluice gates and let the water flow through the hydropower turbines.
Kaspar Vereide, a doctoral student at NTNU, is the brain behind this novel idea. He believes Norway can harness its existing 937 hydropower stations to assume a unique position in Europe’s energy infrastructure. As it stands, Norway is the sixth largest producer of hydropower in the the world and it has the potential to grow this even more under Mr. Vereide’s plan. The challenges facing this proposed project are large but not insurmountable. The power plants would need to be adapted to preserve the rate at with power is generated, which is at a frequency of 50 Hertz (Hz) in Europe. Water’s inertia is an issue, speeding up or slowing down water takes time, this dilemma transfers to power production: it isn’t just as simple as throwing a switch to shut down power generation.
Mr. Vereide is working on developing air-cushioned surge chambers to speed up the plant’s ability to modify the flow of water through the turbine. The higher the frequency of stoppages, the higher the chance of load fluctuation which can lead to uncontrolled blowouts. The challenge now is to “find the formula that can provide the solution for each power plant”. Mr. Vereide has set his sights on better understanding surge chamber thermodynamics, if he solves this problem he will be a step closer to turning Norway into Europe’s green battery. He said, “So far, research has only a limited understanding of surge chamber thermodynamics. We haven’t yet been able to quantify the transport of energy (heat) that occurs when the air is compressed in the air-cushioned chamber. This knowledge is important for an optimal design of air-cushioned chambers.”