Photos © Bjørn Leirvik
Norway, a country that generates more than 80% of its electricity from hydropower, has added to its renewable repertoire in the guise of a beautifully Kebony-clad 30GWh plant. The plant is situated deep within the mountains of Helgeland, a hiker’s paradise just below the Arctic Circle. The region is known for its unique coastline and spectacular mountain formations and the architects wanted the plant’s design to be inspired by and reflect the landscape, whilst also functioning as an attraction for hikers in the back country wilderness.
The Øvre Forsland power station has been designed to tell the story of its location and to educate about power production by allowing visitors to experience the production of hydraulic electricity at various points throughout the process. From the nearby bridge, the powerful water flow that drives the turbines can be seen emerging from the station and the heart of the plant and the inner workings are exposed through an opening, which reveals the light design of the interior - inspired by the mystery of the Northern Lights.
Øvre Forsland is located on the river bank, in a clearing at the edge of a spruce forest. A main inspiration for the design was the verticality and the irregularity of the spruce trees. Along with extensive use of stone, slate and glass on the exterior of the building, Kebony wood is used in the building’s cladding. Kebony was chosen for the build primarily to its beauty and to its hardwearing qualities but sustainability was also of paramount importance to the architects. Kebony is a Norwegian wood, produced using sustainably sourced soft wood species which are impregnated with a non-chemical bio-based product and heated under pressure, resulting in a highly durable and maintenance free product. As such Kebony diverts demand away from our endangered tropical forests.
The power plant was commission by Helgelands Kraft, a large producer of hydraulic electricity in northern parts of Norway. In 2008 it began commissioning a number of new hydraulic power stations, all with specific environmental credentials and a commitment to building power stations that suited their surroundings, functioning simultaneously as an attraction and destination.
The team from Stein Hamre arkitektkontor said: “The plant has been designed to reflect the characteristics of the landscape, which is located on the river bed in a clearing at the edge of a spruce forest. The main inspiration for the design was the verticality and the irregularity of the spruce trees. The Kebony wood will acquire a grey patina gradually over time as it interacts with the elements. The durability and low-maintenance of the wood lends itself to remote locations.”
Adrian Pye from Kebony said: “Choosing a natural material is important in reducing the impact on the visual environment and Kebony wood provides the strength and durability of tropical wood without causing environmental degradation. It adds another layer of ecological credentials for the 1600 homes which will benefit from the renewable power.”