Power from glaciers: the hydropower potential of Greenland's glacial waters

Partl R (1978). Power from glaciers: the hydropower potential of Greenland's glacial waters. Energy 3 (5): 543-573. DOI:10.1016/0360-5442(78)90072-5.

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Abstract

In the southern parts of Greenland, large quantities of water melting every summer from the ice shield 1000 m above sea level and more, within a short distance from the coast, offer favorable conditions for a large-scale hydropower development. General ideas on such a development have been published by several authors. This report tries to go a step further by providing an assessment of available resources, an analysis of technical problems for the utilization of this resource and its integration into a global energy system, and a preliminary estimate of construction needs and costs.

The estimate of available resources is based on published climatological data for Greenland and other arctic stations, and on a cautious selection of effective solar radiation and albedo values. 210–360 km3 of water is expected to be available during the summer months at an average altitude of 1000 m, corresponding to an energy generation of 460–800 TWh. Continuous generation all-year-round, however, requires storage reservoirs with a total volume of 100–180 km3. In southwest Greenland, numerous large lakes will provide sufficient storage volumes. In the east, storage is a problem, and power generation might be restricted to the summer months.

Some 12 to 15 sites have been identified on the maps where power schemes can be developed with a total installed capacity of 60–120 GW; hence, the estimated hydropower resources of Greenland come close to the 1974 total consumption of electric energy in the interconnected grid system of Western Europe which, according to the statistics of UCPTE, was 724 TWh with a peak load of 118 GW.

Technologies for hydropower development are well established and already in progress towards the order of magnitude needed for Greenland; however, methods of collecting water melting from large ice surfaces have still to be studied and tested. The problem of bulk energy transport over great distances is common to all future global energy supply options, and not unique to Greenland energy. Carriers envisaged in the report are EHV sea cables and transmission lines on land, hydrogen gas pipelines across sea and land, and tankers for liquid hydrogen or ammonia. Preliminary cost comparisons show each of these carriers to be competitive under specific production and market conditions. The report gives a tentative model for the full development of Greenland's glacier power comprising all these options.

Construction cost of the power schemes is estimated at 775-320 US-dollars per installed kilowatt, but another 220–430 US$/kW have to be invested in transport facilities such as EHV links or H2 gas pipelines. The use of liquid H2 as an energy carrier requires lower investments but involves higher energy losses.

The integration of Greenland's glacier power into a global energy system is analyzed according to the criteria adopted for IIASA's Energy Program. No need of fundamental innovation and no serious constraints have been identified for a full development, scheme by scheme, over a projected construction period of e.g. 40 years, starting after an initial testing, planning, and design period of e.g. 10 years. A tentative study program is suggested comprising the collection of basic scientific data, as well as preparatory technical investigations and tests to ascertain the technical feasibility of the development.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Energy Program (ENP)
Depositing User: Romeo Molina
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2016 14:18
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 06:24
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/12364

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