This Danish Island Powered By Renewables Is Creating Followers Worldwide

Search form

This Danish Island Powered By Renewables Is Creating Followers Worldwide

This Danish Island Powered By Renewables Is Creating Followers Worldwide
Fri, 4/4/2014 - by Jonas S. Hansen

At first glance, the small Danish island of Samsø doesn´t look like a place that would attract international fame. With less than 4,000 inhabitants living on under 115 square kilometers of land, it's not exactly a geopolitical player. But a visit to Samsø reveals an island with outsized ambitions for moving into a clean energy future – and others around the world are starting to take notice.

Here, wind turbines are aligned in straight rows in the ocean that surrounds the island. Solar panels dot the roofs of houses and farms everywhere, as well as parks. Initiatives have involved the local population and private investors in helping Samsø realize its green, clean energy potential – and since 2005 it has been producing more electricity than it consumes, all from the sun and wind.

At the same time, Samsø gets more than 70 percent of its heating power from biomass, solar and high-efficient heating pumps that extract heat from the air. Wood chips, hay and other non-fossil fuel sources employed in central heating systems and energy efficient renovations have drastically reduced fossil fuel use across the island.

Meanwhile, other innovative projects like the extraction of natural gas from manure and garbage dumps have strengthened the island´s green credentials.

How It Happened

It all started in 1997 when Samsø won a state-financed competition to be “Denmark´s Renewable Island.” That spark led to the evolution of a project that quickly involved both private and public actors. In the years since, more private investments combined with state and municipal funding have driven the island´s transformation.

And it hasn´t been only the environmental, feel-good carrot that made this renewables movement a success; basic economic motives also played a key role getting islanders to participate. Many are shareholders in the wind turbines and central heating systems. And many have installed their own wood chips boilers, household windmills, heat pumps and solar panels.

The economic and environmental benefits couldn´t be clearer as people on Samsø are both saving on their power bill and profiting from the shares they holding in the clean energy enterprises. Go figure: as oil prices have risen, the whole experiment has turned into a great investment for the island and its residents.

Smart Investors Create a Smart Future

One local who saw economic potential in the project early on was Jørgen Tranberg. Tranberg has invested almost $1.2 million purchasing shares in ocean wind turbines. He fully owns a 1MW land-based wind turbine and owns half the shares in another 2.5MW land-based wind turbine.

“You don´t invest that much for fun,” he explains. “Before this project, when you invested in a few stocks, it was mainly for the sake of soft values. But when you invest in this size, it is another matter.”

“When I just moved to the island, I was standing on the top of a hill and thought about how windy this place is. Then came the wind turbine projects, and I believed that it could give a reasonable surplus.”

It´s not all about the money, of course. Tranberg is well aware of the more climate-friendly, environmental future he is helping promote with renewable energy.

“When the wind turbines were introduced, no one was interested in CO2 emissions. But most people have now recognized that the temperature is rising – except those who buy houses right on the edge of the sea,” Tranberg says.

Another inhabitant, Bo Agerskov, is participating on a smaller and more private level. He has his own wood chip boiler and solar panels. For Agerskov, economic interest was an important reason, but not the only one, for investing in renewable power.

“It was a combination of environment and economy – and high oil prices. My wood chip boiler can also be connected to a wind turbine,“ Agerskov explains, and “with one of those, I can get 100 percent self-supplying with renewable energy.“

“It is a goal I would like to reach,“ he adds, because “renewable energy has always interested me. If you follow what is going on in the world around you, it automatically becomes interesting.“

International Attention – And a Leader In the Green Mountain State

The success of Samsø is by no means a secret. It has quickly become a destination for green tourism, bringing added business to the island. Commercial and political delegations from the U.S., China, Japan and other countries have also visited – and brought ideas and inspiration home with them as they attempt to green their own economies on the Danish model.

One such place is Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, where a wood-fueled central heating system for the city – designed on the Samsø model – is just six months away from completion. Montpelier´s declared goal is to become a “net-zero” fossil fuel consumer by 2030, producing all the energy it needs from renewable sources.

If things go as planned, more electric vehicles, solar power arrays and efficient heating pumps will be an established part of the city´s landscape – an ambition supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, which has awarded the project $8 million in funding with more investment planned in the future.

“Deploying technologies in our cities and towns will have economic and environmental benefits for all Vermonters,” said Montpelier´s utility chief, Mary Powell. “It makes perfect sense that Vermont would be the state where we can successfully make our capital net zero.”

New Goals

Back on Samsø, the newest set of plans involves supplying the island with 100 percent heating from renewables – and altogether eliminating fossil fuel use for transportation both on the island itself, and in the boats used to get to and from it.

Today, some of the cars and tractors here already run on electricity, and increasingly on biofuel – a product people want to produce more of, by figuring out the best kinds of plants for energy extraction. Around the clock, it seems, technicians, engineers, innovators – and regular islanders, concerned about the costs both to themselves and to the climate – are seeking ways to make the world outside their doorstep a greener, cleaner place.

For more information about Samsø see this general site. Find out here about the Energy Academy – the top source of renewable energy knowledge on the island. And read here for more on Montpelier´s renewable city project.

Article Tabs

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands.

Despite the 828-page Dodd-Frank Act, the derivatives pyramid has continued to explode to a value now estimated to be as high as $2 quadrillion.

HSBC, Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Nova Scotia have been accused of attempting to rig the daily global price of silver in the latest price fixing scandal to rock the banking industry.

The British Medical Association joins a growing movement of institutions – including dozens of universities, foundations and even the World Council of Churches – dumping oil, coal and gas holdings.

A community without dollars is not a community without wealth.T his basic insight lies at the heart of the community resilience movement.

This summer, the CIA's private Amazon Web Services cloud—shielded from the public behind a wall of national security—becomes operational.

Posted 5 days 7 hours ago

The Premier of the Province, Kathleen Wynn, is being given another chance to respond to growing calls from the Indigenous community to protect their Territorial Rights.

Posted 6 days 6 hours ago

Extensive research and reports commissioned by the fracking industry are treated as seminal, informative works within the U.K. government – but to date, no one outside industry vouches for its safety.

Posted 5 days 7 hours ago

It seems the people of the world are factually correct when they label the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world.

Posted 6 days 6 hours ago

From the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to the Trade In Services Agreement, massive trade deals are being advanced in coordination with a militarized police state.

Posted 3 days 10 hours ago
A Constitutional Case Against Felony Voter Disenfranchisement Laws

Obama’s recent court victory on early voting may have carved a legal path for fighting down felony disenfranchisement laws.

Exposed: Spain Is in the Hands of Thieves

300 politicians are now under investigation for corruption in Spain, where politicians’ subservience to financial power is being exposed.

13,000 workers at seven campuses of University of California hospitals began a two-day strike on Tuesday to protect their pensions and enhance patient care.

When thinking 40 years into the future, people step out of the current political situation, and our sense of what's possible becomes much more expansive.

Interview: The Editor of Adbusters Shares New Thoughts on the Movement

Kalle Lasn, founder and editor of Adbusters magazine, is largely credited for conceptualizing and starting the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City. "I don't think anything can stop these young people," he said.

Sign Up