Utsira shows the way to climate solutions

June 11, 2007, 11:10 CEST

Siri Kalvig from Storm Weather Center is one of Norway's most profiled meteorologists. She decided to round off her busy lecture tour entitled 'The Sky and the Sea' on Utsira, off Norway's west coast, where Hydro has set up demonstrations of electricity production using wind and hydrogen power.

Last week, a film team from Sydvest Films was shown around Hydro’s project facility at Utsira. The tour will be a part of a new series of documentaries in conjunction with the ‘Sky and Sea’ lectures concerning the climate and environment to be shown on Norway's TV2 this coming winter. The documentary follows Kalvig through her lecture tour from its outset in April from Oslo. The lecture deals with the consequences and solutions of climate change.

"Researchers are now confirming that it is indeed humans who are responsible for climate change and that the effects will be upon us sooner than we thought," says Cecilie Mauritzen, who participated in the ‘Sky and Sea’ lecture at Sirahallen in Utsira. Mauritzen is an oceanographer at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and a member of the UN’s climate panel. "Our current statistics show that we are up against a real problem," she says.


In the lecture, Kalvig emphasizes the possibilities for the individual to take responsibility for cutting down on their own emissions and waste. An example being that each Norwegian currently disposes of on average 11 tons of CO2 each year compared to a Bangladeshi who discharges around 0.5 ton/year. In the United States the average is about 20 tons per person per year.

Kalvig points out that it will get warmer in Norway with temperatures increasing more distinctly in the north of the country. This will result in serious consequences for vulerable species such as the polar bear and artic fox.

Kalvig went on to say that in the west of the country rain is expected to increase by about 15 to 20 percent from 2071-2100, and at the same time global water shortages will present massive challenges.

According to climate researcher Mauritzen, the situation will create political tension. Norway comes out best on the list of countries in regards to adjusting to climate change but pressure from the rest of the world will be prominent. Norway must not rely on its oil wealth but should push on in other directions.

"We need breakthrough technology now. We must provide the right stimulation for youngsters to be attracted to the study of science. We need solutions, not just talk," stressed Kalvig in her lecture. "Hydro’s Utsira project fits well in to this area," she said.

The Utsira solution

Sjur Bratland, section manager in Hydro’s New Energy unit, showed Kalvig and Mauritzen around Hydro’s establishment at Utsira and explained how the hydrogen project was developed.

"This project is proof in practice that it is possible to accomplish something. It also illustrates Hydro’s ability to realize innovative solutions and get them to function. We have produced something so unique that people are still coming here to learn more three years after we started," says Bratland.

The decision to bring the ‘Sky and Sea’ lecture tour to Utsira is an example of the continued interest in the project. Other celebrities have over the years visited the wind and hydrogen power establishment which is located in Norway’s smallest municipal. Lead singer from a-ha, Morten Harket, came to the island in 2006 and the Russian oil magnate Roman Abramovitsj visited Utsira i 2004. The Hydro project has also received a lot of attention from the world’s press.

Kalvig wondered why Hydro chose Utsira. "The project needed a unique place with enthusiastic and initiative-rich inhabitance; we found it in the 220 people at Utsira," Bratland explained.

And Utsira’s mayor Geir Helge Rasmussen was quick to point out that ambition is the least of his concerns: "Our little municipality is now considering extending our ambitions by the development of renewable society with zero emission."

More about the Utsira project

  • The hydrogen and wind power establishment at Utsira is a demo project currently supplying electricity to ten families on the island. During high winds, the excess power created from one wind turbine is stored as hydrogen. A fuel cell or hydrogen motor converts the hydrogen to electricity when the wind is weak. This ensures a constant, secure source of power without having to rely on the national grid.
  • The Utsira project has been running since 2003. The aim of the first stage, which is now complete, was to ensure that all the components would function well as an independent unit and that the project could provide constant electricity to the desired quality for its designated users. The next phase will concentrate on developing individual parts of the project and look at ways of reducing costs, simplifying the technical and operational functions and optimizing recourses. More attention will also be put into commercializing and marketing the project. Even after the termination of the project in 2008 the wind turbines, which are owned by Hydro, will be functional for a further 25 years.
  • The main aim of the project is to provide a full scale demonstration of how renewable energy resources can provide a constant and effective power supply in remote areas. Hydro’s partners in the project have been amongst others Enercon, Enova and the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT).

The ‘Sky and Sea’ lectures

  • One of the challenges in the climate debate is to find the time for the lengthy analysis needed to determine the connections between the reasons behind climate change; to find out what is really happening with earth’s climate. We need to separate fact from speculation and study the details which we are unsure about. There is a great demand for an arena where we can study in depth what’s actually happening to the world’s climate. This is one of the main reasons why the Norwegian Ministry of the Enevironment and Storm Weather Center in cooperation with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute decided to arrange the ‘Sky and Sea’ lecture tour. Over 20 places in Norway have received the lectures since April. The backbone of the message is the lecture tour, but a book will soon be published and off course there’s the documentary.