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Power transfer

May 6, 2009

Nearly all of Norway's energy needs are met by hydroelectric plants. The country is top in Europe when it comes harnessing the power of water and wants to share its knowledge with Germany.

Power wires
Norway and Germany are considering environmentally friendly ways to trade powerImage: AP

High above the dark water of the Otra River, Roald Tjorteland looks over the dam and turbines of the Nomeland power station.

"Today, 98 percent of electrical energy in our country comes from dams," he said, adding that Norway's reliance on hydroelectric power meant money was no object when it came to erecting the plant's stone and concrete walls. "Water means a lot to us Norwegians."

Built in 1920, the power plant's technology seems outdated to some, but its supporters, like Tjorteland, say the technology it uses has proven its value by running for nearly 90 years.

"The annual output is about 170 gigawatt hours," he said. "That's enough to power 15,000 households."

Abundant hydroelectric power

A turbine at the Nomeland power station
Norwegian hydroelectric turbines could deliver power to Germany...Image: DW/Alexander Budde

The Agder Energi company, for which Tjorteland works, runs dozens of hydroelectric plants in Norway and has said it believes more of the power plants could be built in the country. Smaller plants could be built in Norway's mountainous regions and older power stations could be upgraded with new supply lines and turbines.

In addition to meeting Norway's domestic energy needs, the Norger consortium, of which the energy company is a part, has said it plans to invest about 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in a new underwater cable between Norway and Germany.

The consortium hopes to take advantage of the growing demand for energy from renewable sources in Germany, according to Norger head Edvard Lauen.

"Wind energy is heavily dependent on the weather while the power grid needs a balance," he said. "When there's a strong wind in Germany and more green energy is produced than is needed, it could be exported to Norway."

Two-way cable

A German wind turbine in front of a cloudy sky
... and German wind turbines could deliver electricty to NorwayImage: picture-alliance/ ZB

The setup would allow Norway to stop its hydroelectric plants and use German wind power. Should the wind die down on the other side of the North Sea, Germany could import Norwegian hydroelectric power, Lauen said.

Lauen said Norwegians would profit from the deal because they would be able to set the price for power when it's in high demand and other renewable sources are unavailable.

But some members of Norwegian industrial groups have come out against the project due to fears of an overall increase in electricity prices.

The construction of hydroelectric plants was a controversial subject in Norway. In the 1960s, environmental protection groups came out against humans influencing rivers' paths with concrete in order to create power.

But supporters of the renewable energy source have said progress has recently been made, according to energy expert Marius Holm from the Bellona Foundation, an environmental protection group. Rather than creating massive concrete dams, smaller projects, which are used in conjunction with windmills and are barely visible, are being promoted as environmentally friendly sources of power.

Author: Alexander Budde / Sean Sinico

Editor: Kate Bowen

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