This past September we stopped by the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in a swing through Jutland. There we met with Preben Maegaard, longtime director of the Folkecenter and one of the pioneers of Danish wind power.
Preben is a font of knowledge about wind energy, its history in Denmark, and its promise. He’s indefatigable.
While we spoke in the Folkecenter’s cozy mess hall over a warm cup of coffee, a robotic, solar-powered electric mower was cutting the grass outside the window. That captured for me the essence of the Folkecenter, putting to use renewable technologies available today.
We had a wide-ranging conversation on many topics but one that stuck in my mind was Preben’s reference to the “Bermuda economy” about the trend toward privatizing Denmark’s famous cooperatively owned wind turbines. “They (the new owners) can sit on Bermuda and own a wind turbine in Thy,” said Preben, in reference to the township where the Folkecenter is located.
In other words “absentee landlords” have no interest in the well being of Danes living in Thy or of Denmark more generally. Their only interest is in the operation of “their” wind turbines.
To Preben and Danes like him who pioneered successful local ownership in Denmark, this breeds resentment against wind energy and will make it more difficult for Denmark to meet its renewable energy targets.
The move of more and more wind energy offshore and the replacement of groups of what are today relatively small wind turbines with multi-megawatt machines.
Preben noted that planners wanted to “sanitize the landscape” from the time of Svend Auken, the late social-democrat who was a powerful minister of energy in the 1990s. Wind turbines didn’t meet the sense of propriety or the aesthetic tastes of the bureaucrats who wanted to “remove all the little ones and install one big turbine,” said Preben.