Beauty and power: how Norway is making green energy look good

Re-blogged from The Guardian –   @stuartdredge

Ovre Forsland is a big departure from the hulking power stations that traditionally served our energy needs. It looks more like an elegant, custom‑built home from TV show Grand Designs.

Located in the Helgeland district in northern Norway, it’s a small hydroelectric power station capable of supplying 1,600 homes with power.

Designed by Norwegian architecture firm Stein Hamre Arkitektkontor, it sits on a riverbed at the edge of a forest, with an exterior that aims to reflect the irregular shapes of the spruce trees forming its backdrop.

“It’s a small plant. The biggest stations in this region were built in the late 50s and 60s to serve industry, but in the last 15 years it has been much smaller projects,” says Torkil Nersund, production manager at the plant’s owner, energy company HelgelandsKraft.

“It’s a small plant. The biggest stations in this region were built in the late 50s and 60s to serve industry, but in the last 15 years it has been much smaller projects,” says Torkil Nersund, production manager at the plant’s owner, energy company HelgelandsKraft.

“It’s the perfect place; the environment is fantastic. This region is known for its spectacular nature, so we thought the building should try to live up to the surroundings.”

The station benefits from a 157-metre drop in the Forsland river, and uses two Francis water turbines to turn the flow of water into electricity for the surrounding community. It produces about 30 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy, with the flexibility of its storage system ensuring it can meet surges in demand.

“Øvre Forsland does not only serve hydropower to people in the region. Its purpose is also to bring attention to hydropower, the history around it and the benefits,” says Nersund.

“You can say that hydropower will play a main role in renewable society in the future, so we want more attention on the hydropower business.”

Øvre Forsland is also angling for the attention of people who come to Helgeland for its hiking trails and beautiful scenery. Those visiting the power station can look through a tear in the building’s exterior that reveals its innards: the turbines.

The emphasis on this harmony, and on renewability in general, can be seen in the fabric of Øvre Forsland itself. The architects used Kebony wood, sustainable softwood that has been treated with a bio-based liquid to make it more like hardwood.

Kebony has been used for projects from beach houses at Camber Sands in East Sussex to a restaurant in Hawaii, but in Helgeland it’s one of the key elements in a power station that’s as much a picturesque hotspot as it is a vital community utility.

“The power plant has brought a lot of attention to hydropower and we have the impression that many people see the values of it. We hope that the Government also sees that hydro power has a great future ahead and that they facilitate the development of Norwegian hydro,” says Nersund.

One response to “Beauty and power: how Norway is making green energy look good”

  1. Michael Cook says :

    Very impressive, almost charming! It achieves the gentleness of renewables.

    Michael Cook, Bristol, Uk

    Like

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