Norse strong winds blow clean energy

Arctic Norway provides renewable example for Arctic Canada


HAVØYSUND, NORWAY – The Arctic has more than enough wind for anyone -and 16 wind turbines in Havøygavlen’s Arctic Wind Park are producing clean energy from this plentiful natural resource, much like Nunavut or Nunavik could.

Located way above the Arctic Circle, at 71 degrees latitude, the Arctic Wind Park, which opened in 2003, is the most northerly collection of wind turbines in the world.

And the turbine towers are certainly impressive.

For those who drive outside of the community of Havøysund, the giant towers appear suddenly on a hillside, looking more like lost extraterrestrial invaders from the recent movie War of the Worlds than like producers of clean, renewable energy.

The enormous towers make little noise, although when the sun falls slightly on the horizon, they cast long, eerie shadows, stretching all the way down to Havøysund below.

The 80 metre-high towers, together with the reinforced plastic blades, each weigh 250 tons.

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When they’re working efficiently, they produce about 120 gigawatt hours of electricity, five times more than Havøysund, population 1,000, is able to use.

The rest of this power is exported to distant consumers via the power grid.

Arctic Wind, a subsidiary of several power corporations in Norway, owns the $44 million park – and should recover its entire investment by 2014.

Looking out after the turbines is a staff of three, who spend most of their days scanning what’s going on inside the towers from a computer screen in an office. Regular maintenance is done on the turbines twice a year.

Inge Lynghamar of Arctic Wind says he sometimes has to scale a ladder in the middle of the turbines’ tower to fix a problem or to check on how they are running.

Lynghamar is a fan of his wind park, which produces power from wind, without sending more warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

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“This is pure energy,” Lynghamar said.

And one that operates with few problems. The turbines are made to run for about 20 years without major repairs.

The main concern of the wind park’s guardians is the level of wind: when there’s none, production drops, but otherwise causes little problem.

However, winds of more than 70 kilometres an hour can cause the turbines to stop, and it can take some time to get them back on line.

“The best speed is 41 to 50 km an hour,” Lynghamar says. “If you have a good and stable wind it really works.”

Temperatures along this Arctic coast line only drop to -15 C, but Lynghamar says the turbines could be fitted with a heating system to withstand the colder temperatures found in Canada’s Arctic.

The Arctic Wind Park’s impact on the environment has been minimal, Lynghamar says. Birds haven’t run into the park’s towers, although in other parts of Norway there have been some bird collisions.

Lynghamar fishermen appreciate the towers because they can use them to see the direction of the wind is and how strong it is blowing.

“If it doesn’t look good, they go back to bed.”

The Arctic Wind Park has also become a bit of a tourist attraction. When the park was built, a restaurant-café was built at the far end of the park to overlook the sea.

Shadows from the towers fall across Havøysund at some times of the day and during certain times of the year. Shadow from the turning blades of the turbines have caused some people in some other communities to complain, but Lynghamar says when this happens, the turbine blade responsible for the flickering shadow can be set to stop for a while.

In any event, shadows aren’t much of a problem in a region where there is constant sun in the summer and darkness for three months of winter.

The Arctic Wind Park is connected to the main Norwegian power grid, but this isn’t the case with other wind parks in Norway. A wind park on the island of Utsira off the western coast of Norway uses power from its own turbines.

The electricity produced from the turbines is used to make hydrogen from seawater. Then, stored hydrogen is supplied to a generator and a fuel cell to send “clean” power back to the turbines as needed.

While Canada has been slow to build wind parks, Europe has embraced wind energy, with more than 10,000 turbines in Germany alone. The European Commission wants 22 per cent of its energy to come from renewable sources, such as wind, by 2010.

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