Renewable energy flows through Norway

Norway is primarily powered by hydropower. But Norwegian innovators are also active in developing other renewable energy sources.

Since the end of the 1800s, Norway has generated most of its electricity from renewable sources. The same holds true today.

Even though hydropower is dominant, Norwegian companies see growth potential in other renewables as well, such as wind power, solar power and district heating. Renewable energy sources have one thing in common: minimal greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve the climate targets of the Paris Agreement, more renewable energy is thus essential.

Below is a brief overview of Norwegian energy production.

Largest hydropower nation in Europe

Norway is the seventh largest hydropower nation in the world – and the largest in Europe. There are vast water resources spread throughout the country, which have laid the foundation for electricity supply and industrialisation in the cities and outlying districts alike. Today, 96 per cent of Norwegian hydropower production is concentrated at 1 500 plants dotting the country from north to south. These cover roughly 60 per cent of Norway’s energy needs.

New hydropower plants continue to come online. The company Lyse recently opened Lysebotn 2 – a new, flexible, technologically advanced hydropower plant – in Southern Norway. The plant will generate enough to supply 75 000 households with electricity each year, and can be adapted to the power market as it evolves.

Meanwhile, Statkraft has taken on the formidable task of bringing renewable energy to market. The company now operates Europe’s largest virtual power plant connecting over 1 300 renewable energy installations in Germany and supplying more than 6 million German households with clean energy.

Rapid development in wind power 

Land-based wind is one of the most important renewable technologies worldwide. Although wind power production comprises only a small segment of Norway’s renewable energy production, developments in land-based wind have come fast. In 2017, Norwegian production hit a record high of 2.9 TWh. Construction of a new wind power facility comprising six wind farms is underway, with a total annual output of 1 GW. Scheduled to go into operation in 2020, the facility will be Europe’s largest of its kind. It is being built by Statkraft for Fosen Vind.

When it comes to revolutionary innovations in offshore wind, it is hard to surpass Equinor. The company has opened up previously inaccessible ocean areas for power production. In October 2017, it launched Hywind Scotland, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, which now supplies clean energy to 22 000 British households at competitive prices.

Floating solar power

Ocean Sun, too, is going offshore, only with solar power. The company is working to bring clean energy closer to where half the world’s population lives – near the coastline. Ocean Sun’s patented solution consists of silicon solar modules installed on large floating structures. The structures are built to withstand harsh conditions and exploit Norwegian expertise in maritime, photovoltaic and aluminium technology.

Using the city’s own energy

District heating makes use of a city’s energy resources that would otherwise go to waste. District heating can help to replace fossil energy sources, while alleviating burden on the power grid in heavily populated areas. And when renewable electricity is no longer needed for heating, it can be used in other sectors, helping to make them greener.

District heating is now a fixture in the largest cities in Norway, and new infrastructure is being constructed in a number of smaller cities. Lyse Neo is expanding its district heating network in Southern Norway, which will not only increase energy production, but will also be a step in phasing out natural gas in these areas.

Clean energy, good opportunities

Thanks to Norway’s bountiful, moderately-priced, clean electricity, the country’s aluminium industry can produce the world’s cleanest aluminium. Other types of manufacturers also reap the benefits of Norway’s renewable energy resources. NorSun, for example, manufactures high-performance monocrystalline silicon ingots and wafers for the global solar power industry. These products have high export value, as solar wafers are the building blocks of solar cells, which in turn are the building blocks of solar panels.

Meanwhile, access to abundant clean energy is facilitating the electrification of Norwegian society, where great strides are being made. Norway is already renowned for its high penetration of electric cars. Other modes of transport, such as ferries, buses and even airplanes, are gradually being electrified.

Norway will remain an important export nation

Even though the green transition is clearly underway in Norway, oil and gas will remain Norway’s most important exports for years to come. Because domestic electricity consumption is covered by hydropower, nearly all oil and gas is exported. Norway is currently the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas, with exports to the EU covering 25 per cent of its total natural gas consumption.

What is district heating and what is waste heat?

District heating systems generate heat in a centralised location and distribute it other locations to provide space or water heating for residential or commercial buildings.

Waste heat is heat that is produced by any process that uses energy. Instead of being released into the environment and wasted, this heat can be reused in heat production such as district heating.

Photos, from top: Powel; Statkraft; Hywind Scotland/Equinor, Roar Lindefjeld/Woldcam; Ocean Sun; NorSun.