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Open house at Utsira

April 26, 2005, 12:30 CEST

Last weekend, 22-24 April, was open house at the wind and hydrogen power plant on the western Norwegian island of Utsira.

Hydro, together with German wind turbine supplier, Enercon, and Utsira municipality, hosted more than 300 visitors at the world’s first and so far only combined wind and hydrogen energy production plant. There were so many visitors on Sunday that the ferry between Utsira and the mainland had to make an extra run.

The Utsira plant was officially opened in June 2004. It has since generated huge international interest within the energy industry, research and investment communities, various government agencies and media. Last weekend was the public’s turn.

Visitors were first curious about how it all works. Thorough explanations were provided. The guests also learned about wind power at nearby sites in Karmøy and Høgjæren, gas power at Kårstø and natural gas-powered automobiles.

Family event

Sunday was the big family day. Organizers invited families to hike along Utsira’s new Troll trail, which started at Utsira’s main dock and proceeded to the wind/hydrogen energy site on the other side of the island. Along the way, the tale of two resident sea trolls named Tu and Aris was told. Local kids dressed as trolls were also present.

At the local restaurant, Havstuene, lunch was served while the popular Norwegian folk rock group, Vamp, performed. Down at the hydrogen plant, the Utsira music corps played as visitors ate waffles and drank coffee and soda pop, all sponsored by the organizers.

The weather couldn’t have been better for an open house throughout the entire weekend. Sunshine and very little wind. The energy plant ended up being the main meeting point for half of Utsira’s 250 residents and the 300 visitors.

An international energy conference will be held on Utsira, 10-11 May. Australian researchers have also found the plant very interesting and are evaluating a similar unit for installation at a station on Antarctica. They have a lot of wind at the South Pole, but presently use expensive diesel to power generators. They’d rather use the Utsira principle of wind and hydrogen powered fuel cells during still periods.