Denmark has been a leader in renewable and clean energy for over 40 years. While some policies were perhaps misguided, like banning car use on Sundays in the 1970’s, slow but steady expansion of the country’s renewable energy portfolio has allowed the country to maintain its emission levels while boasting of continuing healthy economic expansion. One of the best examples of the country’s advances in renewables technology is the Middelgrunden windfarm located just offshore in Copenhagen’s harbor. Built in 2000, it currently has twenty 2 MW turbines that generate a total of 40 MW of power (about 3% of Denmark’s total requirements). This farm, along with others, provides 20% of Denmark’s total capacity and is used alongside waste, biogas, straw, and cogeneration (for heating). Some areas, like the “Danish Reference Area” which includes Thisted Municipality and Samso Island, already produce over 100% of their own power and 85% of their own heat from renewable sources.
Of course, there are several issues with maintaining an area with intermittent power sources, but grid operators like Electricity System Development are working on natural energy storage methods in order to keep electricity output constant. One such arrangement utilizes pumps that channel water into a reservoir for later generation at hydropower dams.
Of course, its nice to imagine all of these facilities in our heads, but how often does one get a chance to go actually see facilities like these first hand? Fortunately, Michael Cote and I were able to obtain two of the coveted spots on a recent tour of Middelgrunden here at COP15 through EnergieTours, a joint venture between the Danish Wind Energy Association and co-owner of the farm, Dong Energy.
Our bus arrived at a nearby harbor that, strangely, was located right next to a large coal plant. We were loaded onto a large boat and treated to a lengthy presentation on the farm, its finances and numerous other statistics. Lunch and refreshments (Fanta in glass bottles!) were provided and we were able to see the entire farm. Making a loop, we went around the entire chain of 20 windmills, getting close enough to one of them to jump, Bruce Willis-style, onto the base. I’m pretty sure I’ll never get a chance to tour an offshore windfarm again, so I definitely leapt at the opportunity. It was great to see these amazing structures up close. While a fan (pun intended) of wind energy before, the beauty and functionality of these large-scale farms is something that continues to need preaching at home. Check out the video we made, there are some great shots of the farm from all angles as we approached by boat.