Steady breeze for wind power
Hydro's commitment to renewable energy glows even brighter in light of new wind power plans and projects in Norway and the UK.
Wind power is the fastest growing market in Europe,” says Knut Ovreås, who leads Hydro’s wind power activities – part of Hydro Oil & Energy’s Renewables and Hydrogen business unit.
Market growth is driven by the European Union’s energy directive to generate 270 terawatt hours (TWh) of new, renewable electricity by 2010.
“We believe Norway will be an important energy country to Europe in the future. We have some of the best wind conditions and a low population, making it easier to develop large wind parks," he says. "We’re also looking at the UK, which has good wind too. We think it’s important to have a geographical spread.”
Hydro alreadly holds a 41.5 percent share in the world’s most-northerly wind power park – Havøygavlen, near the Barents Sea fishing community of Havøysund, Norway.
The 40 megawatt capacity Arctic Wind project is jointly owned by Hydro, Dutch energy company Nuon, with 53.5 percent, and Tromsø, Norway-based investment concern Norsk Miljøkraft, with 5 percent. Hydro and Nuon are in the process of purchasing Norsk Miljøkraft's stake.
“If only 50 percent of the EU goal to produce 270 TWh of new renewable power is achieved, that means building 1,600 wind parks the size of Havøygavlen,” Ovreås says.
“We’ve been securing new sites, including two in northern Norway this past summer,” Ovreås remarks in reference to properties at Båtsfjordfjellet and Bugøynes, near the towns of Båtsfjord and Kirkenes. He adds competition is hot for prime locations with Norwegian state-owned power production monopoly Statkraft and several local utilities.
“In order to secure sites, we have to do it now… otherwise we’ll be out of the race.”
Developing wind power parks is not without technical and political challenges. Another issue is the objection of local reindeer herders.
Yet another obstacle is the Norwegian military’s complaint that wind power parks interfere with radar surveillance in defense activities.
“It’s difficult to discuss the radar problem with the military because of confidentiality issues,” Ovreås explains. “We’re working with large industry organizations to find a solution. It’s not just in Norway, but all over Europe. In Scotland they’ve developed software that eliminates the problem.”
While some object to wind farms, others delight in their presence.
Havøygavlen's neighbors in Havøysund, Måsøy municipality, welcome the world's most northerly wind park. Inspired by the success of nearby North Cape, which claims to be Europe's northernmost point and draws some 200,000 visitors a year, Måsøy planners are building a restaurant in the wind park on the edge of a high cliff above the Barents Sea. Norway's world-famous Hurtigruten coastal steamers dock daily at Havøysund and hopes are high some passengers will stay a day or two.