The findings from the biggest Nordic research cooperation programme to date were presented in Stockholm on November 18 at the closing conference of the Nordic Top-level Research Initiative. Focusing on climate change, the initiative points to a range of solutions aimed both at reducing the magnitude of climate change and at adapting to its inevitable consequences. We have taken a look at some of these new Nordic climate solutions.
By Páll Tómas Finnsson
New visualisation tool allows homeowners to adapt to climate change
VisAdapt, a new web-based visualisation tool for Nordic homeowners, was launched at the conference. The tool allows homeowners to prepare for weather and climate related events that may affect their houses, based on climate change scenarios, risk maps and adaptation guidelines.
Users start by typing in their address and selecting some of the features of their house. Based on this data, VisAdapt shows information about the risk of various climate-related events, such as extreme rainfall, heat waves, storms, floods and landslides.
“By selecting these parameters, you’ll be provided with a range of the adaptation measures available for your house, ranked by which climatic parameter has the highest relevance in your area,” says Dr. Tina-Simone Neset, one of the scientists behind VisAdapt.
VisAdapt is developed in close cooperation between NORD-STAR, a strategic adaptation research project funded by the Top-level Research Initiative (TRI), Norrköping Visualization Centre and four Nordic insurance companies, If, Tryg, Codan and Gjensidiga.
The communication aspect has been a key focal point in developing the tool. Rather than focusing too much on the gravity of climate change, VisAdapt aims to empower homeowners to react and adapt to it.
“We constantly come across how difficult it is to communicate climate change and what it entails for society. It’s complex and it’s abstract,” says Professor Björn-Ola Linnér of Linköping University, who points to the increased use of scientific visualisation as a means of reducing climate change.
Better forecasting improves wind power output
The IceWind project addresses some of the challenges of large-scale deployment of wind energy in the Nordic countries. The objective is to improve forecasting of wind, waves and icing in order to optimise wind turbine output and prevent production losses. IceWind focuses on three key issues: long-term and short-term forecasting of icing, improved accessibility to offshore wind farms in order to perform maintenance, and integration of wind energy on land.
“Public authorities will be able to use our results to estimate wind energy potential and identify suitable sites for new wind farms. Also, the Nordic wind industry can use these tools to improve its competitiveness in the global market,” says Niels-Erik Clausen, an associate professor at DTU Wind Energy and the IceWind project coordinator.
The research meets the needs of the common Nordic energy market, which allows the countries to trade energy on a day-to-day basis to accommodate fluctuations in production and demand.
“You submit bids for the next day, based on an estimate of how much you will be producing. This requires excellent skill in forecasting wind speed, wind direction, waves and icing, which are some of the factors that may reduce power output,” Clausen says.
Enesca develops sustainable batteries
Under TRI’s Energy Efficiency with Nanotechnology programme, a group of researchers has succeeded in developing working prototypes of sustainable batteries made from algae cellulose. The project is called Enesca and is led by Professor Maria Strömme of Uppsala University.
“There is a need to find a more sustainable solution for electric energy storage,” Strömme explains. “We believe that we’ve created the fundament for sustainable energy storage based on renewable materials.”
“The most unique properties of Enesca electric energy storage devices are their disposability, eco-friendliness and rechargeability,” she says. “We’ve shown that the Enesca devices can be cycled several thousand cycles without losing capacity.”
Enesca’s aim is to build on current development in order to develop and prepare the production of battery material, or even battery systems, together with industrial partners.
“We have a strong mission of promoting the Nordic countries when it comes to building new production platforms, companies and spin-outs from the various ideas,” Strömme asserts.
The BioEng project is testing second-generation biofuels, produced from non-food biomass. Two focus fuels have been tested in car engines to monitor their efficiency and emissions. The project is being carried out in co-operation with a range of industrial partners, which have provided crucial input into the testing.
“These industrial partners have played a vital role in BioEng,” says Terese Løvås, BioEng’s project leader. “We have partners that produce second-generation biofuel as a side product of their paper industry, and partners from the car industry who have provided state of the art engines. We’ve therefore been able to test real fuels in real engines.”
“We also have partners who develop software for simulating combustion in engines,” she continues. “This has made it possible for us to use advanced simulation tools to match what we observe in the experiments and try to understand it from a theoretical point of view as well.”
Fast and effective underground carbon storage
One of the Top-level Research Initiative’s six sub-programmes is CO2 – Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). It aims to develop methods and technologies to help the region achieve the CO2 reduction goals. One of the more remarkable discoveries is a new, extremely fast method of mineral carbon trapping, developed and tested within the NORDICCS project.
“We dissolve the CO2 in water during injection, which is different to the conventional CCS methods used elsewhere in the world,” says Edda Sif Pind Aradóttir of Reykjavik Energy. “After the CO2 is dissolved it goes into the basaltic lava formations in the sub-surface. The acidic fluid injected interacts with the basalt, enabling us to turn the CO2 into rock in approximately one year.”
According to Nils A. Røkke, Climate Director at Norwegian research institution SINTEF and Centre Leader of NORDICCS, this new method has revealed a huge carbon storage potential in Iceland. He sees the discovery as a result of the distinctive nature of Nordic research cooperation, based on the common pot principle and close cooperation between industry, researchers and policy makers.
“The Top-level Research Initiative has been a special vehicle in building confidence in the Nordic platform. What we’ve done within NORDICCS is an example of the results we can achieve when countries work together,”
The Top-level Research Initiative has resulted in a wide range of additional projects and solutions – see the latest info and outcomes of the initiative
Facts about the top level Research Intiative
The TRI was launched in 2008 by the Nordic Prime Ministers.
It has had a total portfolio of 40 projects under six headlines:
- Effect studies and adaptation to climate change
- Interaction between climate change and the cryosphere
- Energy efficiency with nanotechnology
- Integration of Large-scale Wind Power
- Sustainable bio-fuels
- CO2 – capture and storage
The total cost to date is a little over 50 million Euro.
“We constantly come across how difficult it is to communicate climate change and what it entails for society. It’s complex and it’s abstract”
Professor Björn-Ola Linnér of Linköping University
“We believe that we’ve created the fundament for sustainable energy storage based on renewable materials”
Professor Maria Strömme of Uppsala University
“Public authorities will be able to use our results to estimate wind energy potential and identify suitable sites for new wind farms”
Niels-Erik Clausen, associate professor at DTU Wind Energy and the IceWind project coordinator