Why Norway should become the battery of Europe

This is an article that I am working on with my friend Tord Eide and I have been working on. Hopefully it will go into a Norwegian newspaper

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 create a stable and significant income stream for Norway that will outlive the current income from oil. Also, by doing so, we as a nation would be making a vital contribution to the decarbonization of the world's Future Energy economy.

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. Bottlenecks in the electric grid of Europe do not allow Norwegian hydropower to effectively balance the load in southern Germany for example.

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 each of the many different connected power nodes* inside Europe, with millisecond level control of power flow into or out of each node. Figure 1 shows the concept; this represents a logical first step towards a European supergrid. The nodes shown inside Europe are actual nodes that already exist in the AC grid. These are mostly very large transformer yards near large power plants. Contrast the plan of Figure 1 with the plan of Figure 2, which is taken from the Nordic Grid development plan 2014.

(See figure 3)

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. This is dramatically less useful that if power from any point on a loop can be transferred to any other point of the loop as is the case in Figure 1. Note that the proposed HVDC power lines of Figure 2 will become outmoded in the scenario that there is a future European supergrid (as it is actually planned), whereas the loop shown in Figure 1 would be a logical starting point for the European supergrid.

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.

Superconducting powerlines are far from being practical at this point, and the other major Industry sponsored powerline concept called gas insulated line (GIL) has the fatal flaw of relying on an incredibly potent greenhouse gas for insulation, sulfur hexafluoride. There is however one sort of underground powerline that would be practical, the elpipe; this is a type of polymer–insulated electric pipeline that also solves the critical problem of the need for rapid repairability. The elpipe is the invention of one of us (Roger Faulkner), but we both believe it is a critical innovation.

All patent rights to the elpipe were obtained by the Swiss company Alevo, for which we both worked in the past, which was founded by Norwegians, and which is now bankrupt, not due in any way to the elpipe but rather to poor execution of the production of the novel battery that was to be the first product of that company. The founder of Alevo (Jostein Eikeland) obtained the patent rights to the elpipe because of his vision that the elpipe would ultimately enable Norway to become the battery of Europe in part. The elpipe is a crucial technology if one is to be serious about basing the European energy economy upon renewable energy, 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 super grid based on overhead power lines.

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 in different areas of Europe. Pumped storage and dispatchable hydroelectric power plants remain the gold standard for the very high energy end of this market. Very fast reacting energy storage, such as batteries or flywheels are also needed. Covering a large geographical area is necessary in order to spread the weather risk of being cloudy or becalmed, thus making 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 continental scale transmission and the amount of energy storage actually required; the existence of a supergrid means that only a modest amount of energy storage capacity is needed for a truly renewable energy future.

No comments:

Post a Comment