Monday, June 1, 2015

Introduction to hydro power in Trondheim

Today we toured two separate power generation facilities near Trondheim, one of which is built inside a mountain. These are only two of the many hydroelectric facilities that together generate 99 percent of Norway's energy demand.
Today we toured two separate hydroelectric generating stations near Trondheim, Norway.

Our first stop was the Leirfossene kraftverk (aka Leirfossene Power Station), built into a mountain in 2006 to replace two older power stations built on the same stretch of river in the early 1900s.

Leirfossene kraftverk
The entrance to the station. (Sorry about the smudge, rain got on the lens.)

The tunnel to Leirfossene kraftverk
The long tunnel in to the mountain. (My camera was being irritable, I apologize for the blur.)

While the original power stations are still in operation, they operate at a much lower capacity because the majority of the flow in the river is now diverted through the new station.

When it is running at full capacity, the station can generate 45 megawatts of power (although this number varies depending on recent precipitation levels).

In an average year, the station generates a total of 193 gigawatt hours of energy, enough to power 8,600 homes.

The generator room of Leirfossene kraftverk
The top half of the huge generator room.

The second plant we visited was the lower of the two original plants, known as Nedre Leifoss kraftverk, or Lower Leifoss Station.

The plant alone can produce 10MW of power at full capacity, which is smaller than even a single turbine at the Leirfossene station. Nonetheless, it adds more power to the grid to power the great city of Trondheim.

Nedre Leirfoss kraftverk
Graham and Professor Imbertson discussing power generation outside of the old plant.

The generator room of Nedre Leirfoss kraftverk
The generator room

Having a large number of these small plants dotting the landscape is what has allowed Norway to generate so much hydroelectric power.

Currently, hydro power covers 99 percent of Norway's energy needs, in large part thanks to the excellent job the Norwegians have done in establishing many small, site specific solutions to the problem of finding renewable energy.

While it should be noted that Norway's ability to generate so much renewable energy is entirely made possible by their unusual landscape (i.e. large elevation changes over short distances and high precipitation levels), they still serve as an excellent example of the attitude that is necessary to solve problems as large and complex as that of energy production.

Norwegians chose to invest in clean, reliable methods of generating power at multiple locations all over the country using a method that has enormous initial capital investment and takes a long time to construct. (Keep in mind that not only are these structures massive, but rivers have to be diverted to put them in place.) However, these methods pay off in the long run as a result of the low cost of operation.

This attitude is just what Professor Imbertson was talking about during his famous sand dune lecture (see the post from Saturday, May 30 for clarification). Norway took advantage of its surroundings in a way that was sustainable, and the country has adapted, changed, and upgraded over time to keep its systems sustainable and effective.

This is the attitude that we have been learning to adopt over the course of this seminar, and it becomes stronger with each new day in Scandinavia.

Today was a blast, and tomorrow we will be touring local companies to see how they are working to increase sustainability in their operations in addition to touring some local points of interest.

We may even get a chance to take a dip in to the chilly Trondheimsfjord. We'll just see what happens!

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