Over the past few years, media attention centered on the topic of energy development has been focused upon northern Norway. There have been intense debates around the topic of oil exploration in the seas surrounding the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands.
In early 2011, faced with mounting opposition by local fishermen, environmentalists, scientists, and grassroots organizations such as Folkeaksjonen oljefritt Lofoten, Vesterålen og Senja (“people’s movement for an oil-free Lofoten, Vesterålen, and Senja”), the Norwegian government put a temporary hold on oil exploration immediately surrounding these islands. However, the government is allowing exploration just south of the islands, and many people in the academic and local communities in this region feel that in two years, when a new government is sworn in, the Lofotens will again be under close examination for possible drilling.
This drilling, if it happens, would be closer to the shoreline than drilling has been in any other region of Norway to date. It could potentially have a big impact on the fish there (this area is a prime spot for cod spawning, and the largest cod stock in the world can be found in the Lofotens), the world’s deepest cold-water coral reef found off the coast of Røst, and the abundant seabird colonies in the area, not to mention the tourism industry, an important source of economic revenue for the region.
The region is also being explored as a potential site for offshore wind farms. Offshore wind farms are a relatively new concept. The largest one to date can be found in the UK, the 100-turbine Thanet windfarm in the English Channel off the coast of Kent. The Thanet wind farm opened in November 2010. Of the top 25 largest wind farms in operation today, all but two are located in Europe.
Floating wind turbines are another new technology being pioneered in Norway. As of 2009, there were only two operational floating wind turbines in use worldwide to farm wind energy over deep water. The world’s first operational deep-water floating wind turbine was the Hywind, in the North Sea southwest of Karmøy, a Norwegian island off the coast between Bergen and Stavanger. You can view videos and animations of this turbine and read more about it at www.statoil.com.
Another alternative energy form that is being explored in the Lofoten area is the use of tidal currents for power generation. There is one floating tidal power plant already in existence in Gimsøystraumen in the Lofotens. The Morild II was opened in 2010 and is undergoing a two-year trial period for testing and verification of the technology.
The Earthducation team will be talking with the founders of SALT — an environmental research and consultancy group in the Lofotens focused on the sustainability of marine resources — about all these forms of energy, and what benefits and controversies each brings with it.
Please visit our Resources page under the For Teachers menu to link to resources where you can learn more about different types of renewable and nonrenewable energy in use and in development around the world.
QUICK ENERGY FACTS ABOUT NORWAY
- Hydropower provides 99% of its electricity.
- It has the largest proven oil reserves in Western Europe.
- There are 51 active oil and gas fields on the Norwegian continental shelf.
- More than 80,000 people are employed in the petroleum industry in Norway today.
- It has some of the world’s most environmentally friendly offshore oil rigs.
- It is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world.
- It is the world’s sixth largest producer of natural gas.