PhD winter school in renewable energy

The Arctic cross-disciplinary winter school on "Energy transition in the North" had its first gathering for 14 PhD students from University of Oulu, Luleå University of Technology, UiT The Arctic university of Norway and University of Lapland during the week 12.-18. March. Arctic centre for sustainable energy (ARC) has the lead of the Norwegian part of the school, and associate professor Yngve Birkelund from was travelling together with students,  from Oulu, via Luleå, Jokkmokk, Porjus, Kiruna, Abisko to Narvik.  Here is a short summarizing of this week from him.

The collaboration on a winter school for PhD students started in a renewable energy panel discussion on September 8th, 2016, where the four Arctic universities have agreed on a joint arctic agenda and signed a collaboration agreement.  Within renewable energies, the four universities have several research groups and as a starting point we decided that a concrete collaboration task could be a multidisciplinary PhD course where both students and staff could learn more about activities at each university. The aim of the course is for students to be familiar with the challenges ad opportunities for renewable energy systems in the arctic region, and to understand what energy means to people and communities in the arctic, inclusive its environmental and social impacts.

Universities signing the Joint Arctic Agenda 

The week of travel from Finland, via Sweden to Norway, was packed with lectures, visits to companies and power plants, and of course hours in conversations and discussions either in the bus, while eating or gatherings in the evenings. The 14 PhD students had an interdisciplinary background, from e.g. electrical engineering, philosophy, chemistry, biology and social sciences, and during the week we also realized that we covered most of the world as all students coved a wide range of nationalities as they came from: Brazil, Mexico, Austria, Thailand, China, Norway, Grease, Pakistan, Egypt, Sweden, Italy, South-Africa and Finland. Fourteen students from thirteen countries is quite extraordinary, and it worked out great with respect to social interaction and it gave us an edge with respect to both solving local and world wide problems in our discussions. In particular, I do remember an interesting and enthusiastic debate about the government in their country, about 1am, the last night after the final program had ended, at a local pub in Narvik during the "Vinterfest" celebration in the city.  

With respect to the topic of the week, the energy transition in the north, we started out with lectures on electricity systems, distributed energy and smart grids. Then, via environmental impacts and social aspects of new technologies, we got an introduction to the rights of indigenous people in the context of energy development projects in the Arctic, with references and discussion connected to e.g. the development of the Alta hydro power plant which created a large debate and protest in the 1970-80s about sami people rights in Norway. We had several lectures related to forest based biorefinery, and also visits to new industry companies with products for energy production and biofuel. Within the week, we also got a very nice historical and geographical understanding of energy use in the arctic region, starting with the hydro power plant in Porjus, the iron ore mine in Kiruna and the harbor in Narvik. All three places connected with respect to energy and industry development that started over a hundred years ago, and today still being cornerstone companies both regionally and locally for the community.

Porjus historical hydro power plant

Just after the boarder between Sweden and Norway, we visited the wind power plant at Nygårdsfjellet operated by Nordkraft, Narvik.  Visiting this site during the winter is challenging, as cold climate and wind produce snow drift and made it somewhat challenging to walk up to large and impressive wind turbines. Students where eager to ask questions about the development of the wind part, and operational aspects of the wind turbines, and the representative from Nordkraft also explained that this particular wind park produced most of its energy during the winter season and that it was best to avoid maintenance in this period.

The week ended at UiT, campus Narvik, where students presented some initial ideas about interdisciplinary collaboration related to energy transition in the arctic, and they will continue to work on a joint research proposal as the home work in the course. In summary, we all agreed that this had been a very nice experience, with a good mix of lectures and industry visits. As students prepare for the final examination, the lectures and organizers will start the planning of the next years winter school in renewable energy. 

Students and staff, at Nygårdsfjellet wind park





Page administrator: Yngve Birkelund
Last updated: 29.03.2017 15:48