Climate change is ravaging the $12 billion ski industry. Ski resorts all over the world are increasingly turning to expensive snow-making machines as the climate warms. Norwegian researchers are now developing a better snow machine.
A consortium led by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)and SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research institute, are now working on a machine that can produce snow that heats buildings at the same time, even if the temperature is above freezing.
The Norwegian Ministry of Culture has granted NTNU 2.3 million krone to research new ways of producing artificial snow.
“Winter sports are a central part of Norwegian life,” says Trygve M Eikevik, a professor
of energy and process engineering at NTNU. “If you make snow machines, they should certainly be environmentally friendly,” he adds.
However, conventional snow-making doesn’t work once the temperatures are above freezing. But Norwegian researchers have now found a way to create snow in warmer temperatures by adapting the heat pump technology found in refrigerators and freezers. And instead of blowing the hot air outside the machine, the researchers aim to achieve 100 percent heat recovery which could be used to heat nearby buildings and facilities.
“At higher temperatures, you need a refrigeration plant to make snow. The advantage is that this process is independent of air temperatures. One of the main aims of the project will be to find out how we can produce snow regardless of the outdoor temperature, and to develop energy-efficient ways of doing it,” says Petter Nekså, an energy research scientist at SINTEF.
The researchers are also looking for a better way to store snow as a precaution. Sawdust is currently used to help insulate the snow for later use, but it loses its insulating properties over time and requires replacement. Perhaps technology within the fishing industry might prove to be helpful.
“The fishery sector produces around 300,000 tons of ice each year for fish export. This is enough to cover an 8-metre-wide, 150-kilometre-long ski trail with a layer of ice that is half a meter thick. It is, therefore, more than possible to manufacture snow for skiing,” says Eikevik.
A prototype is expected ready next year, and the researchers hope they can save Norway’s reputation as a “skiing nation”.
The project will be conducted in collaboration with the city of Trondheim, where SINTEF and NTNU are based, and the Norwegian Ski Federation (NSF). The NSF hopes the project will increase Norway’s chances of bringing the World Ski Championships to Norway in 2023.
Eco-friendly Norwegian Snow Machines, written by Tor Kjolberg