In December, wind power provided the country of Denmark with about 55% of its electricity. This is the first time that the wind-leading country (or any major country) has received over 50% of its electricity from wind power in an entire month.
Of course, wind power provided well over 55% of the country’s electricity during certain periods throughout the month. On December 1, it provided ~136% of the country’s electricity needs. During the week of Christmas, it provided 68.5%.
Denmark has a target of receiving 50% of its electricity from wind power on an annual basis by 2020. It looks like the country is well on its way to achieving that. The country also has a 2050 target of getting 100% of its energy from renewable resources.
Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.
Here’s my latest monthly report of the “Top 10” most compelling clean energy, climate, and environment-related news stories encountered last month. These articles may have an impact on your business, your life, and the world we live in. Or, at the very least, might surprise you about what’s going on.
Over a thousand articles were reviewed across various energy platforms and 40+ were found to be of particular interest, which were sent to my private reader list. This newsletter is available upon request. The 10 most interesting to me are shown here, with a startling #1 article at the end.
10. A report from three Bay Area companies paints a positive outlook for investment in cleantech, stating that cleantech accounts for 25% of all investment capital today. Now that cleantech expectations are more in line with capabilities, many large multinational companies are stepping in as investors, both for their own energy efficiency (carbon footprint) goals as well as venture capitalist–like goals.
8. Navigant Research estimates the currently small global market for energy storage (today at $150 million) will rapidly expand to $10 billion by 2023 due to acceleration of wind and solar installs.
• California currently mandates 33% of utility power be derived from renewables and is now considering mandating energy storage as well. To address inherent intermittency, this evolving industry is seeing growing commercialization of many technologies including batteries (lithium-ion and sodium-sulphur), flywheel, molten salt, and pumped hydro storage.
7. Scientists from Potsdam Institute (PIK) forecast the planet is on path to increase global temperature 9 degrees F in a century through GHG emissions, creating a scenario of floods and droughts that would place 1 billion people at risk — 13% of the global population.
• The Asian Dev. Bank reports that, by 2035, Asia will increase its energy consumption by 67%, representing half the world’s energy demands — and half the world’s GHG emissions. The bank soberly estimates that coal will account for 83% of this growth and that CO2-emitting gasoline cars will remain dominant.
5. The Energy Information Administration reports that the US produced 3.8% less CO2 in 2012 (vs. 2011), continuing a recent downtrend of GHG emissions since 2007. Some of the main credits for the drop in emissions are considered to be a slowed down economy, power plants converting from coal to gas, increasing use of renewable energy, and an improvement in “energy intensity” — a macro energy efficiency measure of energy usage per unit of GDP.
4. A report from the UK predicts that advanced (drop-in) biofuels such as butanol will begin to play a large long-term role in reducing GHG emissions. Compared to hydrogen or electric vehicle formats, the benefit here is the fact that biofuels can be used in international combustion engines. Since internal combustion engines are expected to dominate for the foreseeable future, many argue that advanced biofuels are sorely needed.
1. In case you’re wondering about the effects of Fukushima, here’s a frighteningly well documented report about doses of cesium 137, iodine 131, and strontium 90 that have already infected wildlife all along the west coast of North America, including my favorite — wild caught Pacific salmon. This may affect human health for generations.
On a small island off the coast of Denmark, a group of potato farmers have turned into power brokers, owning the wind turbines that have made their island a net energy producer.
In less than ten years, Samsø went from producing 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, one of the highest carbon emissions per capita in Europe, to just 4.4 tonnes (the U.S. is at 17.6), and has proven that running on 100 percent renewable electricity is possible.
Denmark is a leader in renewable energy development
In March 2012, the Danish parliament passed a historic new energy agreement to bring the country closer to its target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
The agreement set a goal for renewables to provide 35 percent of energy consumption by 2020, and including 50 percent of electricity from wind power. The country is well on its way there—it received more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind in 2012.
[This video was not part of the original article, but is placed here by the Editor for informational purposes]
Back in 1997, Denmark’s renewable energy ambitions, coupled with an oil supply crisis, prompted the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy to hold a renewable energy contest. Competing islands had to present a convincing plan for converting their entire energy systems to renewables within ten years, in order to study how high a percentage of renewable energy a well-defined area could achieve with no major grant funding.
All the energy being used on Samsø (population: 4,100) was imported. An engineer thought the island would make a good candidate and submitted a plan. To the island residents’ surprise, Samsø won.
The island now heats 60 percent of its homes with three district heating plants running on straw, and one which runs on a combination of wood chips and solar panels. People outside of the heating plants’ reach have replaced or supplemented their oil burner with solar panels, ground-source heat pumps, or wood pellet boilers.
Eleven onshore wind turbines provide 11 megawatts of power, enough to power the entire electrical load of the island (29,000 MWh per year). And 10 offshore wind turbines produce 23 megawatts, enough to compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the island’s transport sector. This was all accomplished within eight years, two years ahead of schedule.
The most remarkable part about the transformation on Samsø is the involvement of the residents themselves—none of the projects have been imposed by outsiders or funded by major energy companies.
Local farmers own 9 of the 11 onshore turbines. The other two are owned by local wind cooperatives. Usually the wind turbine owner/shareholder realizes the initial investment in about eight years, and then starts earning a profit. One of the four district heating plants is also divided into shares and owned by local consumers.
At first, it wasn’t easy convincing this conservative island of farmers that they could, or even should, become a renewable energy showcase. NIMBYism, especially in regards to the proposed wind farm, affected many residents, just as it does in communities around the world. But Soren Hermansen, a local farmer and environmental studies teacher, took up the cause. He spent months going to community meetings and talking up renewables.
The key, according to Hermansen, was to convince Samsingers to participate themselves.
There was a certain fear that the project was just another hippie bureaucracy project sent out by some smart Copenhagen top-down politicians and consultants, Hermansen told RMI.
My job was to tear these presumptions apart and break it down to daily things that related to everyone in one way or another.
He coined a term “commonity”— a combination of community and commons—which he referred to in his persuasive discussions with the locals to get them on board with the idea of becoming investors in local energy resources.
By owning the turbines themselves, people didn’t feel as if the technology was imposed on them, but that they were making a smart business choice. They also came to realize the benefits that the green development would bring to the island as far as new jobs, new businesses, and increased business from more visitors.
The island’s tourism website, Visit Samsø, includes a major section on Samsø as a renewable energy island.
Samsingers now export millions of kilowatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources to the rest of Denmark. The Samsø Energy Academy, opened in 2007, is a source of renewable energy research, education, and training.
The academy arranges exhibitions and workshops that attract more than 5,000 politicians, journalists, and students from around the world every year. Researchers from both Danish and foreign educational institutions are able to do energy research at the Academy and island residents can get free advice on sustainable solutions. Furthermore, it functions as a conference center where companies, researchers, and politicians discuss renewable energy, energy savings, and new technologies.
Hermansen has since been named one of TIME magazine’s Heroes of the Environment, and travels around the world telling the story of Samsø’s success. He believes that Samsø’s progress can be a lesson for other places, even though it’s a small rural community.
Scaling can not be done the same way in a city, Hermansen admits.
But the lesson learned is that it is more about people, communication, and common interest than about technology. When you realize this, it is more easy to see the scalability.
Rocky Mountain Institute Since 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit http://www.rmi.org for more information.