Why Norway should become the battery of Europe

This is an article that I am working on with my friend Tord Eide and a Norwegian professor from NTNU. Hopefully it will go into a Norwegian magazine. There is also a second article we've are working on that would go into a newspaper. If anyone reading this Article Is willing to help create the maps that I refer to below,Please contact me…Roger


Why Norway should become the battery of Europe

A debate rages at this very moment about whether Norway should connect strongly to the European electrical grid or use its abundant hydropower resources just for  Norwegians. We argue that using Norway's vast hydropower resources as the battery of Europe would make a vital contribution to the decarbonization of the world's future energy economy. This does not require Norway to sell its energy supply, but simply allow existing hydropower reservoirs to function as reversible batteries. This is Norway’s chance to think in scale and actually be a major contributor to affect the global climate.

In order to actually become the battery of Europe, Norway needs a lot better electrical connection to the rest of Europe. The best way to accomplish such a connection is with a supergrid. A supergrid is a continental scale high-voltage DC (HVDC) grid, and this could be accomplished either with overhead powerlines or underground powerlines. Underground cables however are not up to the task because of their limited transfer capability per cable (about 1.0 GW). This limitation is not likely to ever be overcome, because it is based on the simple fact that cables have to wrap on a reel in order to be transportable, and that limits the maximum cross-sectional area of conductor per cable.
With presently proven technology we would have to build a lot of of new overhead power lines to make a European supergrid; this is precisely why the southern part of Germany is not strongly connected electrically to the northern part of Germany at present; large new overhead power lines are simply politically impossible in Europe today.

Underground cables are not a solution either, as their capacity is typically limited to 1.0 GW. New technology is needed, capable of carrying more than 10 GW.

There are four developmental technologies that could work for building an underground supergrid in Europe including two different flavors of superconducting lines, gas insulated lines (GIL), and the elpipe (the newest technology in this list). Figuring out which of these underground options is the best solution for creating a European supergrid should be a research priority in Europe, but that has not been the case.

So far, the research has been driven by commercial entities with products they want to sell. Siemens has maintained a research program looking at GIL transmission of HVDC power, as well as AC, and ABB he was also very active in this area up until 1999, when they sold their technology to US corporation AZZ.

Many companies are pursuing superconducting powerlines (one example is American Superconductor), and there have also been many research reports and studies from national labs and other similar entities looking at superconducting powerlines as well. Superconducting power lines of any design suffer from flaws that are uniquely a function of superconductivity per se. These  faults taken together are fatal to the practicality of a wide-ranging superconducting supergrid:
  1. Transitioning to a non-superconducting state can be instantaneous and can be triggered by a current that  is over a limit even for a microsecond. This can lead to a catastrophic plasma explosion if the line is carrying a lot of current.
  2. the maximum practical voltage for a superconducting DC power line is around 130,000 V  due to the difficulty of insulating under cryogenic conditions. this is an unsuitably low voltage for conventional HVDC, so in a sense superconducting lines don't play well with the existing technologies.
  3. Superconducting lines have no damping properties.  that means that residences do not damp out and This is a critical threat to reliability especially in view of one above.
  4. every junction between the superconducting lines and the conventional grid is a high maintenance and difficult installation, the failure of any one of which could bring down the grid. Keeping the number of such junctions to a minimum is absolutely required.
  5. It is very difficult to maintain cryogenic conditions reliably, and at all times (which might include times of national disasters such as widespread flooding or earthquakes).

Superconducting powerlines, which have often been proposed for long distance power transmission, are far from being practical at this point, and the other major industry sponsored powerline concept that could have adequate power transfer capability for a supergrid (GIL), has the fatal flaw of relying on an incredibly potent and practically immortal greenhouse gas for insulation, sulfur hexafluoride. Both superconducting powerlines and GIL powerlines suffer from poor repairability in terms of the time it would take to repair a major fault. (When something as important as a 10+ GW powerline fails, it is critical to be able to repair it in hours, not days.) Failure modes for both GIL  and superconducting lines are very difficult, potentially resulting in many days long outages.

The elpipe has been successfully patented around the world, in spite of the fact that one has never been built.  this happened because the elpipe is so firmly based on well-established physics, that the patent examiners admitted it as new invention without ever having had a working model built. This is quite an achievement in itself, and it is a testament to the simplicity of the idea. It is a shame that's such an innovative technology has not been able to find funding.

The elpipe has unique features related to repairability. Such technology can be utilized to build an underground European supergrid, and a European supergrid is absolutely required in order to have a renewable energy future for Europe.

Even if there were no bottlenecks in transmission, the installed hydroelectric power capacity of Norway (~30 GW) is not large enough to truly serve as the battery of Europe. Something on the order of 100 GW of energy storage power capacity will be required to allow for 100% renewable energy generation in the mix for Europe. However, if more turbines were installed, the energy storage in existing Norwegian reservoirs (80 TWh) could make a significant contribution to solve the European challenge. A proposal from the research center CEDREN described a step towards becoming the battery of Europe in the form of 20 GW of new pumped storage turbines to be installed on existing Norwegian reservoirs, combined with several new power lines and subsea power cables to European power nodes. These new power lines would cause most of the environmental and aesthetic damage to Norway, and would represent about half of the total cost. We recognize and understand the resistance of Norwegians to these new powerlines; indeed similar resistance throughout Europe to overhead power lines makes such schemes politically impossible.

We propose a much larger concept for Norway becoming the battery of Europe than any prior proposal, based on HVDC loops, enabled by elpipes, and capable of exchanging much more stored energy with Europe than has previously been contemplated. This scheme however will produce far less environmental and aesthetic harm because it uses underground electric connections (elpipes and cables). We must get beyond the paradigm that power moves through power lines from node to node; continuing in that paradigm would mean that for Norway to become the battery of Europe, we would need at least 20 new power lines connecting us to our neighbors. All such interconnecting power lines will become outmoded (stranded assets) in the future scenario of having a European supergrid.

If one compares the environmental impact and cost of installing more turbines on existing reservoirs to the environmental impact and cost of building new energy storage facilities, it is clear it would be far more desirable environmentally to use the existing reservoirs rather than flooding new valleys (in the case of hydroelectric energy storage), or mining the resources required for manufacturing and installation of batteries (for electrochemical energy storage).

Building new hydroelectric power capacity based on installing new reversible turbines on existing Norwegian reservoirs would create additional storage capacity without having to build any new reservoirs. The main unavoidable environmental impact for this scheme would be that the levels of the reservoirs would be changing more quickly than they are today. The tunnels, turbines and generators that would be required would all be installed underground.

In order for Norwegian power to truly work as the battery of Europe, the power must be deliverable, and power flow must be controllable at many different connected power nodes inside Europe, with millisecond level control of power flow into or out of each node. None of the currently proposed schemes, such as Figure 1, taken from the Nordic grid development plan 2014 which all involve point-to-point powerlines, would accomplish this.

Figure  1: Nordic grid development plan 2014
(See figure 3)...This could be copied and pasted here, or perhaps a few of these sorts of maps.

Although the Nordic grid development plan 2014 does enable increased power exchange with Europe, it uses the same old paradigm used for all such prior projects in which point-to-point power lines are used for purposes of transferring power. Any such point to point power line necessarily relies on the underlying AC grid to provide redundancy in case of a loss of a line.The ability to withstand the loss of any one power line or generator without a crash is a fundamental rule for electrical reliability of any large grid.This is the so-called “n-1 rule,” and strictly limits the maximum size of any power line in the grid.  following the current paradigm, it will be necessary to have about 20 new powerlines linking Europe to Norway just to get to the 20 GW capacity called for in the CEDREN plan (Figure 2).???

Figure 3 shows a first stage high-voltage DC loop–based transmission system map based on elpipes; this represents a logical first step towards a European supergrid. The nodes shown inside Norway and Europe are actual large transformer yards that already exist in the AC grid. The routes shown for the HVDC loop other then the portions of the loop that cross the Baltic Sea are all existing rights-of-way; some are power line rights-of-way, and others are gas, oil, railroad, roadway, or water pipeline rights-of-way. The nodes are mostly very large transformer yards near large power plants.

Contrast the plan of Figure 3 with the plans of Figure 1, which is taken from the Nordic Grid development plan 2014, or  Figure 2, Which is taken from the CEDREN Report. figures 3 to 7 are based on interconnecting HP DC loops; a loop is uniquely redundant  in that every no food on the loop is connected to every other note on the loop via it to independent power lines, the clockwise and the counterclockwise.

this needs work; it seems to me that I should have the drawings of the L pipe loops beat figures 1 to 4, not 3 to 6. I am going to go ahead and post this as an update on my Electric pipeline website  and/or blogsite.

Figures 3–6:  maps showing the layout of HVDC loops that connect Norway to Germany. The very first example  figure 3 just consists of a single loop, enabling power transferred from four nodes or so in Norway to 10 nodes or so in continental Europe. Showing a series of designs here in which one adds additional loops showing perhaps four figures ending with a loop that pulls in both France’s nuclear capacity and all the generation capacity of Germany. The very first embodiment could entail three or four power nodes in Norway conveniently located to access the largest pump storage reservoirs in the country. In order to achieve the key desire of helping out in southern Germany and Switzerland, the lower end of B or C versions of this design must go all the way down to southern Germany and Switzerland. It seems quite obvious to me that the  fourth version D would connect to all of the nuclear power plants in France as well. Showing several levels of the concept would allow us to show the evolution of the elpipe–based supergrid starting from the very first HVDC loop up to a recognizable supergrid.

A series of a point to point connections as in  Figure 2 is dramatically less useful than if power from any point on a loop can be transferred to any other point of the loop as is the case in the HVDC loop systems of Figure 1. Such large HVDC loops are self redundant in the sense that power between any two points on the loop can be delivered either in the clockwise or the counter clockwise direction. (For this to work, one needs very high power HVDC circuit breakers between next–neighbor power taps on the main lines of the super grid.) Redundancy levels continue to improve as more interconnected loops are formed as in  Figure 1D, for example. Point to point HVDC connections linking to large power nodes of the AC grid will never achieve this key property, that of being redundant strictly through the HVDC continental grid overlay.

Only when the DC  continental grid provides its own redundancy will it be possible to trust an individual line with power flows in the tens of gigawatts, as will be required for the European supergrid to be a reality.
Note that the proposed conventional HVDC power lines of Figure 2 will become outmoded in the scenario that there is a future European supergrid (as is actually planned), whereas the conceptual HVDC loops shown in Figure 1 would be a logical starting point for the European supergrid.

Covering a large geographical area with a single grid capable of transmitting power from any point in the grid any other point, as can be accomplished only by a supergrid (continental–scale DC grid), is necessary in order to spread the weather risk of being cloudy or becalmed. This is needed to make renewable energy more reliable in the aggregate than is feasible for any individual solar energy or wind power installation. There is a trade off between the size scale of the grid and the amount of energy storage actually required; the existence of a continental scale supergrid means that only a modest amount of energy storage capacity plus demand side management capacity is needed for a truly renewable energy future for Europe.

One of the largest stumbling blocks to creating a European supergrid has been the necessity for using overhead power lines. Underground cables simply do not have enough power transfer capacity, and will never be economically feasible for this sort of task.

There is however one sort of underground powerline that would be practical for the main conductors of the European supergrid, the elpipe. This is a type of polymer–insulated electric pipeline that is much thicker than a cable (capacity of any cable is limited by the fact that it must be manufactured so that it can wrap up on a reel). Because of its potentially much larger cross-sectional area for the conductor, an elpipe can carry the tens of gigawatts of electricity needed. The elpipe also solves the critical problem of the need for rapid repairability, by breaking up the overall elpipe into cars that are readily replaceable because they are on wheeled carriages, and roll inside of a pipeline. The elpipe is the invention of one of us (Roger Faulkner), but we all believe it is a critical innovation for enabling a European supergrid.

If we are to base the European energy economy upon renewable energy, an underground power line capable of carrying tens of gigawatts of electric power is essential, because a European supergrid is absolutely needed in order to base our economy on renewable energy, and because it is not feasible to build a European supergrid based on overhead power lines. It is of course true that before backing the elpipe, an honest scientific evaluation of all the options including the other three is crucial; in fact it should've occurred years ago. We should've already selected the basic technology for the main conductors of the supergrid by now.

Balancing power flow is the main task for batteries in the future renewables–based European grid. Energy storage is absolutely needed to balance variable loads with many non-dispatchable renewable energy sources (wind and solar primarily), if we are to balance the loads without using fossil fuel energy. Pumped storage and dispatchable hydroelectric power plants remain the gold standard for the very high energy end of this energy storage market. Very fast reacting energy storage, such as batteries, capacitors, or flywheels are also needed, but at present pumped storage is far more economical for storing many gigawatt hours of power, as will be needed to make it feasible for renewable energy to be the basis for Europe's energy economy.

Pumped storage facilities also last much longer than batteries; about 50 years before major repairs will be needed, compared to typically 5 to 10 years of continuous service for electrochemical batteries before they need to be replaced. An optimal pumped storage plant can be as efficient as 83%; this is better than a lead acid battery and not quite as good as a lithium ion battery (~90% efficient); the longer life and lower cost means that pumped storage is much more cost-effective than any currently available electrochemical batteries.

Because the backup power is needed at different places at different times, Norway can serve as the battery backup for Europe only if it is strongly connected to many separated nodes within Europe. The technology to accomplish this, multiterminal HVDC, does exist and it is commercially available from all the HVDC equipment suppliers. The progress towards a European supergrid is painstakingly slow mainly because of the excessive conservatism of the industry and the lack of visionary funding. Given the extreme importance of a supergrid for decarbonizing the European energy economy, this is really a crisis. Perhaps Norway can lead the way by financing an introductory portion of the supergrid that would also enable us to monetize our vast hydropower–based energy storage potential for an environmentally important and renewable national income.

I propose that this is the Technical version of the paper end right here...Below are well written snippets from the text which might be usable in the next document which has more political focus.

If power could be bought, sold, and delivered at any of 10 different (carefully selected) power hubs in Europe, Norway would receive more income for its power sales, while balancing electrical markets throughout Europe in a way that enables a vast expansion of renewable energy generation throughout Europe. This would also create an income stream for Norway; to accomplish this, at least the beginning of the  European supergrid will be required. The national income from serving as a big portion of Europe’s battery capacity could be substantial and could partially cover the receding income from North Sea oil. Furthermore, the income from electrical energy exchanges with Europe would be more stable than the income from North Sea oil, which of course depends upon the world oil market.

Many Norwegians are concerned about a loss of sovereignty that might come from integratIon into the European Energy Union. We wish to point out that the security of Norway and the whole world depends on facing up to the impending climate change disaster. Our neighbors have made lasting and important contributions to Mankind's response to climate change. Denmark gave us economical wind power; Germany adopted a policy that caused the cost of solar power to plummet worldwide. Sweden gave us high voltage DC power technology, which is the only practical means to share power on a continental scale. Sharing electrical power on a continental scale is absolutely necessary to make renewable energy practical and cost-effective, by spreading the weather risks over a large area. Such a continental scale high voltage DC grid is commonly called a supergrid. Supergrids not only make renewable energy practical, but would also enable a centralized energy storage area to be effective throughout Europe.

Here are some of the cost savings that would result from her European super grid:
  • capital cost savings from not having to build additional peaking power plants;
  • fuel cost savings because one is using pumped storage to fulfil load following power needs... This could include savings on future carbon taxes;
  • some existing overhead power line rights-of-way would become redundant, and the real estate value of these rights of way could help to pay for the underground system;
  • from the standpoint of Norway, it is possible to get more money for the power if it can be delivered to many different power nodes within Europe... Specifically Northern Europe.

The European Commission is pursuing a strategy of creating a European supergrid, as a way of enabling a renewable energy future for Europe. Actions by Norway to help enable the creation of the European supergrid would be financially rewarding  for Norway, and could take the European supergrid a large step forward. Pulling away from a strong power connection to Europe would have the opposite effect, because Norwegian hydropower storage capacity is a vital part of the plan. Rather than pulling away from Europe we believe that Norway should be considering how it might catalyze the inception of the European supergrid.  

There are many press reports about Norway being or becoming the battery of Europe, but this is far from true at present. It would be true to say that Norway is the battery of Copenhagen, but Copenhagen is not all that connected to the rest of Europe. Without a stronger grid connection to Europe, Norwegian hydropower will not be able to balance the load in continental Europe.

The fact that renewable power such and wind and solar are so inflexible and controlled by weather conditions increases the need to transport power between regions and countries. If the European supergrid becomes a reality, Norway will be able to use its hydroelectric power capacity to truly become the battery of Europe and in so doing it would be creating a durable income stream for Norway that does not depend on depleting resources, and which may remain highly relevant for centuries to come. This can be Norway's main contribution to reducing the need for fossil fuel reserve capacity in Europe and thereby significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Policies that are not meant to make significant change, accomplish nothing. While recycling, unplugging chargers, riding bikes to work and driving less often may make us feel good, we must not be fooled. These types of actions will only make a small dent in greenhouse gas emissions.  We need countries to cooperate, to invest and to change the way we do things as a joint effort. Global warming is a GLOBAL problem, not a Norwegian problem, and must be solved through international cooperation.

Pulling away from Europe and becoming an electric power island would decrease the value of Norway's abundant dispatchable hydropower resources, while probably producing lower electric rates for a time. Surely the abundant economic value of a super grid that allows Norway's hydropower to become the battery of Europe could be distributed fairly within Norway so that individuals would not be disadvantaged, but in our view the most important factor is that Norway in this way really can contribute to reduce global warming.

Roger,  I cannot find any financial analyzes that substantiates this statement so I believe we need to tone it down a bit.  The sale/purchase of electricity will also be a market based so prices will fluctuate. I have therefore suggested some changes in your text.

The energy exchange with Denmark entails selling them hydropower at One cost, and buying back their excess wind power at a second much lower cost. If you can find the figures for that I can create this sort of an analysis it would not be exact but would be at least reasonable.

No energy technology is free of environmental impacts.  Hydropower definitely has very large environmental impact locally, but in terms of global climate, hydropower is an unmitigated blessing. Norway already has numerous hydroelectric projects, and could also become a hub for other types of energy storage technologies which would create many high-tech jobs, provided it has a strong electrical connection to the rest of Europe. This future requires that Norwegian power can be delivered to many different hubs inside of Europe. The proposed mechanism for the inter connection is a high voltage DC Loop that connects on the order of 10 major power nodes in Europe to 5 or so nodes in Norway. During the past few decades the technology for such a DC Loop has been developed by ABB and Siemens, among others. If Norway got behind such a high voltage DC Loop it would become a reality much sooner than will otherwise occur. This would be a lasting environmental legacy for Norway and become to long sought after “Norwegian Moon landing”

Renewable energy is not dispatchable like a fossil Energy power plant. To base the energy economy on fossil energy requires moving a great deal of power all around Europe. in order for Norway's Hydro capacity to serve as the battery of Europe it is also able to be able to move that power to many different nodes within Europe. a slightly less obvious fact is that this implies the capacity factor for individual power lines will be lower than it is in the current scenario. for example a powerline capable of carrying 10 gigawatts. (something missing here)be able to compete to provide short-term peaking power throughout Europe;  Peaking power cells for at least three times as much as base load power. current electrical interconnections between Norway and Europe would not allow this to be the case, but there is a technology that would make this feasible. The L pipe can be thought of as a wire the size of a pipeline and if a loop is formed of such pipeline conductors, one positive and one negative, it would make nearly instantaneous energy exchange feasible over a very large area.
By backing the development of such a supergrid, Norway would not only leave its mark in Europe, but efficiently  fight global warming in a substantial way.

(what many people are missing in this debate, is that The Hydro power of Norway  is going to be sold to someone for some price, and the price depends on what kind of power it is;  in particular is the power dispatchable or non dispatchable.)

Note to Roger from Tord:
The popular worry is that Norway will lose its independence if the country joins the European Energy Union.  Secondly people are worried about getting much higher electricity prices which will be negative for the individual as well as for the present and future energy dependent industries such as aluminum smelters.

I  really like your  white paper. Parts of it can be used in an article like this.   I believe we need to choose a political strategy. Money is not necessarily  the driving force for Norwegian spoiled brats. If you are right, however, that the income could match or even exceed the oil and gas income  it may be a different story. Do you have any calculations to back this up?

I will need your help with this part, the economics. we have to assign a value to the energy stored for Europe. we need a model that includes a full Year's data to really do a good job colon this would have been easier if we still had a label Analytics

An approach that may hit home is that by joining the European Energy Union Norway will be making a MAJOR contribution to global warming reduction.  I believe that nothing else we can do will have such an impact. We need to back this up with numbers. (I am looking still. Hard to find numbers, but they should be out there;New paragraphs

Another question we should try to answer is whether or not the environmental and financial goals can be met using today's technology. If the answer is no, should we argue for Norway joining the European Energy Union? Maybe not?
I don't think so, there was a reason that Norway stayed out of the EU. I would argue that the key technology that's missing is the L pipe. and that developing the L pipe should be a priority for numerous reasons. (I AGREE)

I want to make a pitch for Norway to make a contribution to the world effort to stop global warming via making the El pipe practical as the basis for Continental scale grits. we can propose a loop that goes through major power nodes in Norway then down to Germany Denmark France Etc. this is the map I kept asking Jared to create but he never did. Once we have those nodes we can look at Power flows and cost to power at those nodes and we can model what the exchange of energy would be worth.

*(power nodes, major power plants or transformer yards)

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