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Hydro power Posted by on Apr 16, 2009 in Geography, Norway and the world, WWII

As I was running through the woods this morning with my dog, although it was beautiful, I became nostalgic about the waterfalls (fosser) in Norway.  At this time of year, especially, there is an abundance of fosser running down the sides of hills, cliffs, and mountains.  It is so peaceful to wander through the woods and observe the pristine remnants of winter’s frozen precipitation.  This is the time of year that the snow in the high altitudes melts and trickles down to soak the ground below. 

The fosser in Norway are even more magnificent when you think about how useful they are. Hydropower is one of Norway’s primary industries.  It is used in the production of metals, chemicals, petrochemicals, mineral products, paper and pulp.  Almost one third of Norway’s hydropower is used to produce these materials.  Surprisingly, 90% of Norway’s paper and pulp production is exported.  90% is also the percentage of decline in harmful substance emissions in the last 10 years.  If you would like more information about these industries in general, you can find it on norway.org’s website under “process industry.”

Norsk Hydro is the world’s fourth largest aluminum company.  The company has plants in 40 countries.  The first plant was built in 1907 in Notodden.  Five years prior, on Dec. 2, 1905, Sam Eyde, Marcus Wallenberg, and Edmond Moret (French) officially founded the company (originally Norsk hydro-elektrisk Kvælstofaktieselskab –literally Norwegian hydro-electric nitrogen limited).  The technology was actually developed by Kristian Birkeland, a professor who conducted extensive research on the northern lights and who originally intended for the technology to be used for harnessing energy to develop the electric cannon.  As I am not a scientist, I do not understand the intricacies behind the production of electrical energy by harnessing the power of fosser.  I understand only that the process of harnessing electric energy also allowed fixing nitrates from the air to create artificial fertilizers, which, as you can imagine, was quite the life-saver for many people in Europe with insufficient food supply. 

I am astonished at how much ownership the Norwegian government has in the company-a whopping 43.8%!  Another interesting tidbit about the company is the number of people it employs-28,000!  I will leave you with one last fascinating piece of information about Norsk Hydro-the plant at Rjukan was shut down by a sabotage raid by the Allied powers for fear that the Nazis would use the heavy water produced to use in the atomic bomb project.  The plant at Rjukan was later reconstructed. 

As you gather, water and gravity create a powerful force that has provided Norway with a great wealth of industries and financial stability.

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!