Wind turbines are tested at NTNU. Photo: Geir Mogen/NTNU

Wind power could cover Norway’s energy needs 20 times

In order to protect nature, we must accept that wind farms reduce the experience of natural areas for some, according to a professor at NTNU.

– Politicians know all the facts and figures about energy and the climate, but shrink away from research and implementing energy alternatives, states Professor Tore Undeland at the Department of Electrical Engineering, NTNU and the Norwegian Research Centre for Offshore Wind Technology (NOWITECH).

– “Energy security” are comforting words from the authorities. But no politicians say: what about the energy security for our grandchildren?

Charging electric cars with wind power

– Wind power can potentially create three times as much energy as today’s hydropower in Norway. In theory, wind power can supply 20 times our energy needs in Norway, continues Professor Undeland.

Tore Undeland. Photo: NTNU

Tore Undeland. Photo: NTNU

Today, the developed wind power in Norway is barely two per cent of the power produced by hydropower plants.

Electric vehicles can be charged from wind power or hydropower. Nearly 100 per cent of the energy is utilized by a typical electric car. On the other hand, a petrol-fuelled car typically wastes 80 per cent of the energy.

– Greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by energy savings measures and phasing in renewable energy without CO2 emissions.

– In order to protect nature, we must accept that wind farms reduce the experience of natural areas for some, says Undeland.

Offshore wind power provides the most energy

Wind farms can be built either on land or offshore. Until now, the wind farms have been land-based or had fixed wind turbines in shallow waters.

The advantage of offshore wind power is that it provides much more energy than onshore wind power. However, the disadvantage here is the cost of development.

Energy consumption

•Norway: 33 per cent from oil.

•Norway: 50 per cent from hydropower. Norwegian hydropower reservoirs make up 50 per cent of the energy storage in Europe.

• Norway: In 2013, 1.4 per cent of energy production from came from wind power = 1.9 TWh. This is Norway's record year for wind power.

• EU: In 2012, 11.4 per cent of energy production came from wind power.

• World: 85 per cent from fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas).

• World: Seven per cent from nuclear power.

• World: Seven per cent of biofuel (wood) and renewable energy, of which approximately two per cent is from wind power.

– The technology for offshore wind power is transferable from offshore technology.

With the know-how and experience we have from the oil industry NTNU and SINTEF have considerable expertise in offshore wind power. We are also engaged in joint research with Statoil on floating wind turbines.

Undeland is doing research on the integration of voltage and current from generators in offshore wind turbines so that maximum energy from wind power can be utilized.

Power electronics is also essential to transmit power from the offshore wind turbines to shore.

Combining hydropower and wind power

– Hydropower is cheaper than wind power, but most of Norway’s hydropower resources are developed. If we want a greater share of renewable energy it must come from wind power, claims Undeland.

– Hydropower (reservoirs) and wind turbines work well together. In a week with little or no wind we can produce more electricity from hydropower, drawing on the energy stored in the reservoirs. When it is windy we can reduce the use of hydropower and keep the water in the reservoirs, he explains.


• Fossil energy is the dominant cause of the 40 per cent increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, mostly post-World War II and with ever increasing concentrations.

• 1 kWh from coal power plants emits 1 kg of CO2

• 1 kWh of gas-fired power plants emits 0.3 kg CO2

• 1 kWh of wind power plants emits 0.03 kg CO2

– Reservoirs fill during the spring thaw. For that reason hydropower is more dependent on season and storage of energy than wind power is.

Norwegians build wind power plants abroad

The Norwegian coastline and onshore topography give us the best conditions for wind power in Europe. However, 15 EU member states have a greater share of wind power than Norway. Germany in particular is investing heavily in wind and solar power, but Spain, Denmark, the UK and Sweden are all major investors in wind power.

Statoil and Statkraft have built more offshore wind power units in England than in Norway, and at Östersund in Sweden, Statkraft is building three large wind farms.

– This is because the price of electricity and the subsidies are higher in England and Sweden than in Norway. Sweden has 20 to 25 per cent better financial conditions (tax benefits) for wind power than Norway offers, says Undeland.

Statoil has also developed Hywind, the world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine, which has been operating off Rogaland county in south-west Norway since 2009.

Subsidized wind power in the transitional period

In Norway, wind power developers will lose money if they are not subsidized. But bringing down the price of wind power is not so simple. Ten per cent stronger and slightly cheaper blades for wind turbines will cut the price of power.

However, Undeland considers it is too late for Norway to start building large factories to produce wind turbines.

– We can be subcontractors, develop specialized vessels for offshore wind power and be attractive partners in design and operation.

– We can’t ask wind power developers to lose money so that Norway can meet its climate change targets. For a transitional period the State should subsidize wind power, he states.

Wind power has social costs

Professor Anders Skonhoft from the Department of Economics, NTNU, has also studied the development of wind power and subsidies. He has a different view on the matter.

Anders Skonhoft. Photo: NTNU

Anders Skonhoft. Photo: NTNU

– A developer of a wind turbine plant will get direct support for the amount of energy produced by the plant. The established power producers pay for the subsidies, i.e. the green certificates. On the other hand, this will give consumers a higher energy bill, says Skonhoft.

– Many people who appreciate the environment must bear the costs and risks when untouched nature is destroyed. This is what I call the social costs of wind power development, says Skonhoft.

Environment part of the public accounts

Subsidizing Norwegian wind power will result in large financial losses. The public accounts should consider that the environment is destroyed and unspoilt natural areas become wind farms. It’s just like a business that needs to consider all sources of income and expenses, the environmental costs must be included in the public accounts when considering building wind farms.

– Politicians want to show results in climate change issues, but they don’t understand how power development projects work. They don’t see that the profits from the development of wind power goes to private investors, while the costs are social, he continues.

Builders of wind power, landowners and municipalities benefit from such developments through profit sharing and taxation. A developer such as TrønderEnergi receives subsidies. Some of the profits go to the landowners and some are paid in property taxes to the municipality.

– For that reason the landowners and the municipalities often support such developments, Skonhoft says.

Wind power has no effect on climate change

A parliamentary climate agreement (2008) stated that Norway should cut its greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

Skonhoft thinks wind power development has no effect on the climate.

– First, no construction of wind farms replaces the burning of oil and coal, simply because Norway does not produce electricity by burning oil and gas. If Norway sells wind energy to Europe, it will not affect the climate either. The production of energy in the EU has a shared quota system, and Norway is subject to this system. More renewable energy from Norway therefore means that others will produce less renewable energy as long as this energy is not competitive with, for example, coal.

Higher costs and lower, binding quotas for non-renewable energy production is therefore the only thing that can help stop climate change, according to Skonhoft.

– Higher costs will also encourage the development of renewable energy technologies. Market forces work here, he concludes.

Birds and wind farms

– Wind farms are not as environmentally friendly as previously thought, says Professor Eivin Røskaft, Department of Biology at NTNU.

Eivin Røskaft. Photo: NTNU

Eivin Røskaft. Photo: NTNU

– Large and heavier species like eagles, seabirds, swans and woodland birds will collide with wind turbines and power lines. The big birds are most susceptible to wind farms because they can’t manoeuvre quickly enough when they get too close to turbines and high-voltage cables.

– We can say this with certainty because we have studied the eagle population on the island of Smøla in Norway, where there are wind farms.

The eagles are affected by the wind farms. Also the nesting sites are vulnerable. By building wind farms in breeding areas or where a species is rare, there is a danger that it affects populations.

– Offshore wind power has the same effect on the birds as onshore wind farms. Out at sea the populations of seabirds are particularly vulnerable. Seabirds are relatively heavy for their size, and for that reason have less chance to manoeuvre when flying into wind turbines. Other species that may be affected by wind farms are flying species such as bats and possibly larger insects like butterflies.

The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) handles applications for licenses for the development of wind farms. Refusals may be appealed to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

Recently they finally said no to 75 giant wind turbines on Sleneset in Nordland mainly because Norway’s and probably Europe’s largest population of the Eurasian Eagle-Owl is found here. It is a threatened species in Norway.