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Arctic Town Invests In Tidal Energy

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 753 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... Thanks to Jim Torson. ... ARCTIC TOWN TO GET OFFBEAT
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 25, 2002
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      NHNE News List
      Current Members: 753
      Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.

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      Thanks to Jim Torson.

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      ARCTIC TOWN TO GET OFFBEAT TIDAL ENERGY
      By Alister Doyle
      Reuters
      Thursday, November 07, 2002

      http://enn.com/news/wire-stories/2002/11/11072002/reu_48896.asp

      OSLO, Norway - In a novel use of clean energy, the world's most northerly
      town will soon be the first to get electricity from a sub-sea power station
      run on tidal currents tugged by the moon.

      Gigantic forces in the oceans -- waves, currents, and tides -- have often
      proved too costly or awkward to harness, compared to wind or solar power, in
      global efforts to cut reliance on nuclear power or on fossil fuels blamed
      for global warming.

      Starting in late November or early December, however, a tidal current will
      start turning the blades of a windmill-like turbine standing on the seabed
      near Kvalsund at the Arctic tip of Norway.

      "We will be the first in the world to use tidal currents to generate
      electricity to be fed into the local grid," said Harald Johansen, managing
      director of Hammerfest Stroem.

      Other unorthodox sub-sea experiments to generate power from tidal currents
      from Australia to Britain have not gotten to the stage of selling power. All
      the technologies mark a shift in traditional methods of exploiting the tide.
      Tides have previously been tapped for use in power plants in France, Canada,
      and Russia by building barrages to trap water in artificial lagoons at high
      tide. When the tide goes out, gravity sucks the water through turbines to
      generate electricity.

      But giant damming projects are out of fashion because they can damage the
      ecology of rivers and coastlines. Seabed turbines, by contrast, are silent
      and invisible, and fish can swim around them without getting sliced up.

      "Of all the renewable energy technologies, ocean energy is probably the one
      in the earliest stages," said Mark Hammonds at the International Energy
      Agency (IEA) in Paris. "Many projects have proved to be too costly."

      Tidal power exploits the gravitational pull of the moon, and to a lesser
      extent the sun, on the oceans as the Earth spins. The seas rise and fall in
      a cycle of 12 hours and 25 minutes and can cause sweeping currents along the
      seabed at the same time, like the ones seen off the north Norway coast.

      LIGHTS FOR 1,000 HOMES

      The Norwegian sub-sea turbine will have a tiny capacity of 300 killowatts
      and is due to expand to 20 mills from 2004, giving enough power for perhaps
      1,000 homes.

      Hammerfest, with 11,000 inhabitants, calls itself the world's northernmost
      town. Johansen reckons the project there has cost 50 million Norwegian
      crowns (US$6.7 million) so far and will cost 100 million by completion in
      2004.

      High oil prices and pledges to curb emissions of greenhouse gases as part of
      the Kyoto pact to limit global warming, blamed on emissions from burning
      coal or oil, are helping make green technologies like tidal power more
      attractive despite their drawbacks.

      Other systems to tap the oceans range from giant snakelike tubes that
      generate power when rocked by waves to machines that extract power from the
      contrast between warm surface waters and chill temperatures at ocean depths.
      But experts are uncertain about the potential, especially because of sub-sea
      maintenance costs. Storms have wrecked many experimental ocean power
      stations.

      "We need to harness all low-impact renewables we can develop. But offshore
      wind is more competitive and solar has more potential," said Greenpeace
      spokesman Truls Gulowsen.

      The biggest tidal power plant in the world is a barrage across the La Rance
      river in northern France, in place since the 1960s. It has a 240-megawatt
      capacity, but Electricite de France has no plans to build new ones.

      Canada's Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia has the highest tides in the world, at
      about 39 feet. Nova Scotia Power's 20 megawatt plant at Annapolis Royal,
      built in 1984, is the only one in North America, but the company is now
      focusing more on wind. "There are ecological objections to building more
      tidal plants along the coast," said Margaret Murphy, spokeswoman for Nova
      Scotia Power.

      All the plants are tiny. Western-style nuclear generators typically have a
      capacity of 500 to 1,000 megawatts and can be counted on for reliable power
      generation, unlike many renewable energy sources.

      QUIXOTIC POWER?

      In Norway, Hammerfest Stroem reckons that building tidal turbines could
      become a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It notes many
      experts used to dismiss windmill parks, now widespread in countries like
      Denmark, as quixotic.

      In Kvalsund, the water flows at about 8.2 feet per second apart from a pause
      at high and low tides. By contrast, windmills are useless in calm weather
      and have to be built to withstand hurricane force winds.

      Solar power is a non-starter in winter in Hammerfest, where the sun sets for
      about two months in mid-winter. The town was the first in Europe to get
      street lighting almost 100 years ago.

      But costs of the electricity are initially likely to be three times that of
      typical hydro-generated electricity in Norway. Tidal power will be added to
      the mix of electricity in the local grid and consumers will be obliged to
      swallow the cost.

      The tidal turbines weigh about 200 tons including the base and are well
      below the keels of passing ships. They turn to face the tide when the
      currents change direction. The turbines are designed to be maintenance-free
      for three years, but divers can go down if needed.

      British-based Marine Current Turbines, which plans to test a similar tidal
      current system off Devon in southern England next year, says that
      maintenance could be a problem for Hammerfest. "When you have strong enough
      currents for tidal energy generation, there are few slack tides when divers
      can work," said Peter Fraenkel, the group's technical director.

      Marine Current Turbines' design, which sticks above the water, allows the
      turbines to be winched up to the surface. "The size of this resource is not
      understood," he said. He said that a British study a decade ago estimated
      that the eight most promising sites off the British coast alone could
      generate one-fifth of Britain's electricity.

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