If there’s a mecca for the green energy movement, it has to be Samsø (pronounced Sam-soe) – an island just off the coast of Denmark. After winning a government sponsored project to become a model for renewable energy, the island began the transition away from fossil fuels towards wind turbines and other sources of power. Today, Samsø (which is home to almost 4,000 people and covers 114km²) is powered only by green energy.
The way the wind is blowing
Wind power is a growing global trend and Samsø is leading the way. Each year, 1 turbine generates around 8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. With wind farms off the coast plus on land, just 21 turbines provide the island with 100% of the electricity it needs for a modern way of life.
Heating things up
While electricity is one thing, it’s important to remember that these folks do live in northern Europe. In order to heat the homes on the island, they use solar power and old fashioned straw burning central heating. Between this and the wind farms, there’s even some extra power to go around. A link to the mainland transfers excess energy off the island, resulting in an additional source of income for the islanders (who were responsible for funding the green initiative themselves).
A beacon to others
Samsø serves as a lesson for other small communities seeking to overcome reliance on non-green energy. Recently, members of small communities in North America have been visiting the island in order to learn from Samsø’s project.
Residents of small islands off the Maine coast have been looking to Samsø as an escape from rising energy costs. Because of the remoteness of many of these communities, prices for fuel continue to rise (even with oil prices dropping).
Room for improvement
While Samsø bills itself as fully energy independent, the islanders still have to use fossil fuels when the wind dies. While wind farms are a popular source of alternative energy, you’ll often hear people complaining about the look and noise of a row of massive turbines across the landscape. When it comes time to reinvest in bigger, more powerful turbines, will the islanders be willing?
The windy city?
While Samsø’s example has been proven to make a difference in small, self-contained communities, there is still a long way to go before we see changes on a much larger scale. Islands serve as a great testing ground for these technologies, however it remains to be seen if the drive to innovate can be scaled up – perhaps to the size of a city!
Denmark hopes to be free of fossil fuels by 2050, which would represent a huge commitment on a scale larger than anywhere else in the world. Regardless, Samsø offers a snapshot what a small community can do, both for itself and as an inspiration to others.
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