Samsø is a 112 square kilometers island off the east coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. Home to 4,300 residents, the island is unique in the annals of renewable energy because it was the first to declare its intent to rely on renewable energy for 100% of the island’s needs.
The island’s proposal won a Danish government competition for communities that wanted to prove that they could live entirely off renewable energy. Within ten years, they’ve done so.
We were fortunate to hear Søren Hermansen describe the success of the program in the fall of 2005 at a one-day workshop on community renewable power development sponsored by David Toke of the University of Birmingham.
The personable and entertaining Hermansen explained how, without any direct subsidy from the Danish government, the islanders built a 50 million Euro energy system. 80% the capital was raised from local investors, relying only on Danish laws and regulations.
During the brief summers months residents depend on the 50,000 visitors to the island. Traditional occupations for the remainder of the year, such as fishing, have been in steady decline. The move to renewables was considered essential for the “survival of the island.” The island and its year-round residents needed a new strategy.
Zomers, Adriaan N. Rural Electrification, Ph.D. thesis, University of Twente, The Netherlands, 2001, page 169. Note that the offshore turbines have been installed.
Now the island provides 70% of its heat with district heating plants. Gradually, islanders are increasingly using biodiesel for liquid fuels. Hermansen says there are four district heating plants on the island, plus several private heating systems burning plant oil.
For electricity, islanders installed 15 new wind turbines. The turbines on land are owned individually by local farmers. To compensate for liquid fuels used in transportation, the islanders installed ten 2.3 MW wind turbines offshore. Of these two are cooperatively owned by 450 shareholders. According to Hermansen, nearly everyone on the islands has some interest in the island’s wind turbines.
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