How many of us have been subjected to the long standing dinner party game where you’re asked to come up with ten famous Belgians (such fun!) and everyone struggles after Tintin and Hercule Poirot. For the pedants among us, I know that neither were actually real (before you point it out) but none the less they usually appear as early contenders for the player determined not to be defeated by the challenge of naming a few moderately notable Europeans.
As an aside, if you do find yourself engaged in this activity, its amazing how many people mention Tintin (or even snowy) yet fail to mention the real life author Hergé. Similarly, five times Formula One world champion Eddie Merckx and Audrey Hepburn rarely get a mention – should you find yourself in need of another few Belgians to make up the score.
Of course, there are countless variations, possibly my favourite being name 10 famous Norwegians. If anyone you’re playing with (who isn’t from Norway) can come up with more than Ibsen, Edvard Munch, Edvard Greig and Roald Amundson then they’ve been cheating. Again, don’t let them slip Roald Dahl in the list, he was as English as bowler hats and understatement, just of Norwegian descent.
However, that anonymity may all be about to change with the increasing rise of Norwegian engineering in the renewable energy fields, One of the largest plans for tidal capture is based in part around Norwegian engineering. The second, a marriage of physics and engineering may result in a truly environmentally friendly energy generation option in the not too distant future.
Norwegian engineering is one of the drivers behind the Swansea tidal barrage scheme. Whether or not you support the idea of zoning off Swansea bay to increase renewable energy supply you do have to applaud the progress it represents. In recent years, more schemes (both viable and non viable) have moved towards a more thought through solution.
The Swansea Barrage has at its core a twice daily tidal flow capture and generation concept. There is no dependency on winds to blow, sun to shine or rain to fall. So long as there are tides, the solution would generate upwards of 360Mw electricity – enough to power around 100,000 homes. (roughly the size of greater Swansea).
Put into perspective, this remains roughly 1 percent of UK peak demand. However, renewable energy now accounts for roughly 10% of uk power generation (approx 7% wind power and 3% biomass)..Surprisingly, at the time of writing,the UK was getting just over 13% of its national power supply from wind power. A snapshot at any time can be found at http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk How things have changed in a few short years,
So is there still further scope for renewable energy supply in the UK. If you look at the growth of solar farms along the M4 corridor and in the areas of Devon and Cornwall you would certainly think so. In fact, the grid itself may need a significant overhaul to cope with the amounts of power being generated in the west country and south west if the trend continues,
Of course, wind and solar power have limitations in as much as they only generate when the wind blows or the sun shines. Who is putting the thought into clean renewable energy with reduced dependency on specific climatic or meteorological conditions. Well that brings us back to those crafty Norwegians.
The method is perhaps less usual, osmosis. By exploiting the Norwegian coast (and potentially the UK coast) where freshwater rivers discharge to the sea these crafty Scandinavians are planning to build plants utilising the natural power of osmotic pressure built up through the natural exchange between fresh and salt water.
In fact, the Norwegians have very little reliance on their large reserves of natural oil and gas. The vast majority of their power is provided by hydro-electric power. Up to one fifth of the UK’s gas is provided from Norway with even those filtration and pumping processes being powered by hydro-electric power.
An insight into both the extent and nature of gas production and supply to the UK from Norway and the potential for a truly renewable energy supply can be found at Norwegian Osmotic Power. The additional benefit of osmotic power is that the only by-product is brackish water (a mix of fresh an salt) which would exist naturally without the proposed power plants.
Some food for thought and there could yet be a time where the UK is producing upwards of 75% of its power demands from renewable sources.