Balancing power: We compare hydropower versus wind power and what is most efficient to develop in order to achieve climate goals by 2050. «In Norway, water and wind together make the perfect system for producing power.»
Harald Dirdal, Project Manager at Grenselandet DA, is clear in his statements when comparing hydropower and wind power:
«Hydropower reservoirs are solely dependent on rain. When a lot of wind power is produced, water can be stored in the reservoirs and used at a later time.»
With wind power, we draw less water from the reservoirs because it provides significant energy during times when it is needed.
When discussing balancing power, the project manager explains how wind power can create greater balance in the power system during vulnerable periods of high demand and consumption.
«It makes the power system much more robust,» he explains.
According to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), 90% of all power in Norway comes from hydropower, while approximately 9% comes from wind. Dirdal leaves no doubt about his opinion on what happens if the percentage of wind power increases.
«With wind power, we draw less water from the reservoirs because it provides significant energy during times when it is needed. As a result, we have lower electricity prices in the winter than usual, and we are less susceptible to dry years than if we only have hydropower.»
He further explains that balancing power can make us less vulnerable when there is little water in the reservoirs, which has been one of the reasons for high electricity prices in southern Norway over the past year.
«In other words, if you have wind in the system, you reduce the likelihood of low power production in a dry year. This will dampen the price effect during dry years.»
During periods when there is no energy to be obtained from the wind, Dirdal argues that it will never be completely calm throughout all of Norway simultaneously, and during such times, the power from the hydropower reservoirs will be used.
«When no power is being produced from the wind, we can run the reservoirs at full capacity to meet demand. In return, when there is a lot of wind power, you save water in the reservoirs, so you have more water available when there is no wind.»
Dirdal refers to a graph with data from regjeringen.no, indicating that there is little correlation between low wind and low precipitation. This means that in a dry year, there can still be a lot of wind, which in turn means that you can still generate power even if it doesn't rain.
ILLUSTRATION: Harald Dirdal refers to this graph about wind power production over a year, with figures sourced from regjeringen.no, as he explains the correlation between wind and precipitation.
The project manager at Grenselandet DA adds that the most significant wind power production occurs in the winter, the same period when there is little replenishment in the reservoirs, and demand is highest.
«About 75% of wind power production occurs in the winter because that's when it's windiest. This is also the same period when there is very little or no contribution to the reservoirs due to precipitation in the form of snow. Therefore, the reservoirs are being tapped to produce power since there is no addition to the reservoirs.»
According to the PwC climate report published in November 2022, a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to achieve the climate goals by 2030 and 2050, and to have a successfull energy transition.
One of the climate goals for 2030 is to reduce around half of Norway's greenhouse gas emissions. 90 TWh of fossil energy needs to be replaced with 30-50 TWh of renewable energy. The report shows that we have managed to reduce approximately 5% from the 1990 level with the current situation.
FACSIMILE: PwC's climate report refers to an analysis that shows we have only reduced 5% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 and that we are only achieving half of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions we have set as a goal by 2030 with the current situation.
The report points out that there is a need for a significant expansion of the power grid and new power production to make enough renewable energy available to replace fossil consumption.
We believe it is more efficient for Norwegian power production to build more wind power than hydropower.
Dirdal emphasizes that it is better for Norway to draw power more from wind than water when the power system needs to expand.
«We believe it is more efficient for Norwegian power production to build more wind power versus hydropower, even though it is a fact that hydropower also needs further expansion.»
This is justified by the fact that we become less vulnerable during dry periods and that the greater interplay between wind and water will keep prices stably low.
«Ideally, we should add 15 GW of onshore wind power to the power system, in addition to 20 GW of offshore wind, to succeed in decarbonization and reindustrialization. The hydropower will be managed by balancing power as we use less of the reservoirs, and we will have the maximum price-reducing effect in the market.»