The future of clean energy

Ny Ålesund, built to mine coal, is just one Norwegian city currently exploring use of deep geothermal energy

Photo: Wikipedia Commons  Ny-Ålesund, one of the four permanent settlements on the island of Spitsbergen.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Ny-Ålesund, one of the four permanent settlements on the island of Spitsbergen.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Nearly one in three of the two and a half million homes in Norway has a heat pump for partial or full heating. That widespread deployment of heat pumps, classified as devices exploiting shallow geothermal energy, is due in part to an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) being required whenever a house or apartment is built, sold, or put up for rent. The Norwegian EPC regulations are the same as those of other European countries, in compliance with the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) of 2006 and 2009. The A (most energy efficient) to G (least energy efficient) rankings are similar to those for household appliances and other electrical devices. A heat pump virtually is essential for a home to attain the A ranking that certifies minimum energy consumption.

The widespread use of heat pumps has led to there being more than 400 companies and dealers offering heat pump expertise and wares. They are listed by the sector association, Norsk Varmepumpeforening (“Norwegian heat pump association”) with a website at (Norwegian only).

At this writing, in Norway there are no district heating systems or electricity generation plants using deep geothermal energy, as there are on Iceland. But they are being planned for mainland Norway as well as for the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic. The first to be built most likely will be in the Svalbard archipelago, at Ny Ålesund on Spitsbergen Island at 78° 55’ N latitude, one of the world’s northernmost settlements, with a population of 30 in winter and 130 in summer.

Ny Ålesund was established in 1916 for coal mining, which long was its mainstay. Its location in the Arctic made it the starting point for several polar expeditions, including two in 1925, when Roald Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth used flying boats and one in 1928, when Amundsen and others used an airship designed by Umberto Nobile. The mines were closed down in 1962, and since then Ny Ålesund has been built up to become an international Arctic research and climate monitoring center. Consequently, it has year-round energy needs for heating and electricity, and now relies on fossil fuel-fired plants. However, Svalbard is on the edge of a tectonic plate, which gives rise to an underlying high geothermal gradient that can be exploited in deep geothermal schemes. So a geothermal energy plant is planned to reduce or eliminate Ny Ålesund’s reliance on fossil fuels for district heating and electricity generation.

These aspects of geothermal energy in Norway and elsewhere are the topics of the forthcoming GeoEnergi 2015 international conference hosted by the Norwegian Centre for Geothermal Energy Research (Further reading) to be held in Bergen September 2 and 3, 2015, with English the main language on September 2 and the Scandinavian languages more prominent on September 3.

Further reading:
• For information on Energy Performance in general and for interactive online calculation of an EPC for a home in Norway, visit the Norwegian Resources and Energy Directorate’s dedicated website at (Norwegian only).
• International Energy Agency, Norway Country Report 2013 (English only), in PDF downloadable from
• Various publications of the Norwegian Center for Geothermal Energy Research located in Bergen, (English website).

This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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