It all began in 1996 when Arne T. and Torleiv G. Bjørgum took a look at “Samlet Plan” (Norwegian plan for the national management of watercourses) to check the information about the watercourse they had rights to. They discovered that the watercourse was considered interesting for potential development, and they quickly began mapping and starting a preliminary project. They applied for an exemption from the Samlet Plan. This was granted in 1998. At this time, the landowners experienced a great deal of pressure from power companies who wanted to buy the fall rights, but they were not convinced that this was right path. When the landowners became aware of Småkraft AS’s collaborative model, they contacted the company at the beginning of 2003. The contract was signed in Oslo in February 2003. Relieved, the landowners drove back over the mountains, certain that they had made a good decision for realising their dream of a power plant.
The road ahead was not entirely easy. At times, the project was met with significant political opposition, partly from the county governor’s environmental protection department, which was opposed to the exemption from the licensing process. In the end, NVE cut through the red tape and gave Småkraft AS the go-ahead to begin work. The building process was quick and on 12 October 2004, there was an inauguration party at Bjørgum that included the presence of the Minister of Agriculture. Today, the Bjørgum power plant is a good example of a moderate small-scale power plant development.
The Bjørgum power plant has been in operation since 12 October 2004, when Lars Sponheim, Minister of Agriculture at the time, pressed the green start button. Of all our small-scale power plants, Bjørgum is the plant that has been in operation the longest. This is a collaboration between Småkraft and the landowners, who enthusiastically help to ensure high-quality operations of the power plant.
The most curious feature of the Bjørgum project is a colony of beavers that gather wooden sticks at the intake every autumn and spring.
The turbine is a 6-nozzle vertical Pelton that is specially adapted to the water flow variations throughout the year, which have been measured at Bjørgum. Maximum flow rate is 1.9 m³/s and it runs a 5490 kVA generator. All power is converted up to 22 kV and delivered to the grid. The intake protrudes only 1 metre above ground level, together with a low transfer threshold that ensures the diversion of the water. The cast iron penstock is 900 mm in diameter, 1.2 km long, and is entirely buried. The power station building was built in accordance with Småkraft’s aesthetic guidelines. Natural stone, glass and wood have been used as design elements, and the main solutions inside were selected to minimise building volume and ensure lower construction costs, even with good material choices.