Arctic Five collaboration in its third year

Winter school 2019 participants. Photo credit: Yngve Birkelund

For the third year in a row, students from 5 Scandinavian universities meet to explore renewable energy transition in the Arctic region.

Text by: Knut Marius Uddu Skjerve

 -Our goal is simple: to produce better researchers. In 2020 however, it is not sufficient to be an expert in only one field. We need our researchers to think more broadly and look for solutions and ideas across different disciplines. To be able to do that, they have to master the art of communication, says Yngve Birkelund, organizer of the Winter School 2019.

-Our goal is simple: to produce better researchers.

Together with Antonio Calo from the University of Oulu, Birkelund was in charge of organizing the week-long program, called Energy Transition in the North.

Arctic Five

  • Began in 2016
  • Collaboration between 5 Arctic Scandinavian universities
  • Goal: to share knowledge and be a strong voice in Arctic academic issues
  • Collaborate on mining, renewable energy, health and wellbeing, indigenous rights and other topics.



-The topic of the course is intentionally broad. We want to look at not just the technical challenges of renewable energy in the Arctic, but also the social and cultural challenges, and how they are intertwined. We want our students to take a step back from their individual expertise and be able to communicate their knowledge to someone that isn’t an expert in their field. This will hopefully enable them to work out cross-disciplinary solutions to cross-disciplinary challenges. Renewable energy production in the Arctic is just one such cross-disciplinary challenge, says Birkelund.

One week of lectures and excursions

The Winter School is a 5-ECTS PhD-course offered through the Arctic Five (A5) collaboration. UiT was the hosting university in 2019, and the participants had an ambitious program waiting for them. From the 11th to 15th of November, they had lectures on different types of renewable energy production in the Arctic. They visited the Kvitfjell/Rødfjell wind park on Kvaløya, the Ferrosiliconproducer Finnfjord in Finnsnes to see their energy recovery facility, and the Lysbotn hydroelectric plant. The students were more than pleased.

Photo: Participants visiting Finnfjord AS. Photo credit: Yngve Birkelund

The course was intense but lots of fun. I think the best part was that the group was really diverse. There were scholars there with backgrounds like political science, urban planning and metallurgy. This was a bit unusual at first, since I’m used to discussing these topics with others in my field. The group dynamic was completely different and we really had to discuss the topics in a more simplified way, so everyone could take part, says Inger Helene Svartdal, PhD Political Science.

The 2019-edition of the winter school was set in Norway, and the organizers chose to pay  particular attention to wind power and the national debate that is taking place on this topic.


Smart Senja

  • Collaborative project led by Troms Kraft Nett
  • Goal: to utilize power grid on Senja more efficiently through smart usage
  • ARC is an official partner
  • Has received financial support from ENOVA

-We wanted to shed light on the entire spectrum of wind power. How wind can be turned into electricity, what is the status of wind power production in Scandinavia, and recent societal reactions to proposed wind mill farms in Norway. The participants travelled to Kvitfjell/Rødfjell to see with their own eyes a wind mill farm. They also met with local politicians to learn why wind mills are a controversial political issue, says Birkelund.

-It was valuable for me to meet the people behind the project and their ideas about energy systems in local small communities – Suzanna Törnroth, PhD Urban Planning

Smart Senja and smart infrastructure

The students also visited Senjahopen, which is the testing ground for an exciting project on smart infrastructure and energy flexibility. The project is called Smart Senja, is finding solutions on how to utilize the existing electricity infrastructure more efficiently.

-Within my research, I work closely with similar subject areas that are tackled within the Smart Senja project, so it was valuable for me to meet the people behind the project and hear their ideas about energy systems in local small communities. It seemed that communication between the stakeholders involved were smooth and that there was a shared goal in creating an energy system that is robust and reliable for the community there, says Suzanna Törnroth, a PhD-student in Urban Planning at the University of Luleå.

Are you a PhD-student and would like to participate in a future edition of the Winter School? Visit for more information.