Samsø, Denmark (55° 52' 0.00N, 10° 37' 0.00"E), an island off the coast of Denmark located in the North Sea bay of Kattegat between the mainland of Jutland and the island of Zealand, is a participant in the European Union's program focused on becoming more reliant on renewable energy. Samsø was named "Denmark's Renewable Energy Island" in 1997. The island is home to 4,400 inhabitants.
As part of the European Union (EU), Samsø has benefited greatly from Europe’s strong renewable energy initiatives. A central focus of the European Commission’s (EC) energy policy is the development of renewable energy to enhance sustainability, create a more secure energy supply, and ultimately achieve significant reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
A key component of the EC’s Community Strategy and Action Plan for renewable energy sources is the ALTENER Programme. The plan began in 1992 and ended in 1997; it was since been extended by ALTENER II (1998-2002). The program has encouraged the development and expansion of an already-viable market for renewable energy sources. ALTENER, among other things, has promoted islands and small cities in the EU towards becoming 100% reliant on renewable energy. Samsø is one of few islands that has participated in the program.
There are several advantages to having islands become almost, if not completely, dependent on renewable energy. Using renewable energy minimizes the need to transport fossil fuels to the islands, which itself consumes energy. By using local resources, islands become more efficient. By generating electricity locally, through wind power for example, islands conserve money by eliminating the need to connect to the mainland grids, which can be very expensive. Also, by building an energy infrastructure from within instead of relying on outside sources, islands create local jobs, which can foster to economic growth.
According to the EU, the expected breakdown of the percent supplied by various renewable energy sources is as follows: wind energy 22%, biomass 74%, solar heating 3%, and others 1%.
In 1997, Samsø was named “Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island” because of its continual progress towards becoming self-sufficient through its incorporation of renewable energy into society. Heating and electricity, two key sectors, will be generated by renewable energy sources, namely wind and biomass. Under currently available technology, it will not yet be possible to have the transportation sector run completely on renewable energy. However, Samsø plans on making the transportation sector more efficient, which will reduce fossil fuel consumption by an expected 20%. Towards this objective, Samsø has introduced biofuels and plans on gradually converting vehicles from gasoline-powered to electrical, and eventually hydrogen.
NRGi, a utility energy company, has been chosen by Samsø as the heat provider for two local districts. NRGi was chosen because it practices environmental stewardship by valuing the environment and pledging to do what it can to protect it. The utility provides the two local districts of Samsø with heat from biomass and solar heating systems. In 2000, NRGi successfully supplied 550 customers with heat using 100% RE.
The EU expects the island's power to be supplied with 100% renewable energy by 2008, but in order for the project to be successful, individuals must be willing to participate. Thus, another key objective is to increase participation on several levels politically, technically, and financially. The involvement of the island's citizens is essential if this plan is to be effective. Samsø has, therefore, encouraged the participation and involvement of locals through various efforts.
Samsø has initiated a campaign to promote household energy conservation. For example, 440 of the island’s pensioners – those who receive government welfare – receive government subsidies for heating. Samsø has also set up a national program that reimburses households up to 50% for any investment that will increase energy conservation – for example, installing windows that will improve insulation. Since the campaign’s start, 92 of the island’s 4,400 residents have participated.
In 1999, another campaign was launched to promote the installation of renewable energy heating systems in private homes located outside the district heating areas, so that these residents are still able to benefits from renewable energy. The main source of heat is solar thermal systems, biomass boilers and heat-pumps.
In 2000, the Danish Energy Agency, along with local farmers, began exploring the potential of utilizing methane gas from landfills no longer in use. The initial farmer project, funded by the Danish Energy Agency, has been a success; the gas from one landfill generates electricity from a 15kW motor. The electricity generated is sold to the NRGi grid and further exploration of methane’s potential is expected.
In 2001, 12 farmers began growing “energy crops” such as elephant grass, a tall perennial plant native to the grasslands of Africa as well as the highlands of Southeast Asia. It is highly productive as a biofuel crop. These 12 farmers are responsible for producing 20 to 30 hectares of crops, some of which is used by NRGi.
Wind energy captured local interest to such an extent that several citizens applied for permits to install wind turbines on their private land. By 2000, 11 wind turbines with a 1 MW capacity had been installed. While some wind turbines are owned cooperatively, the majority are owned privately by local farmers.
In December 2001, BONUS Energy, a German-Belgian corporation, completed construction of the Samsø Offshore Wind Farm, with 10 turbines and a total production capacity of 2.3 MW. The turbines generate approximately 77,500 MWh of electricity. The energy produced by the offshore wind farm is expected to offset the nonrenewable energy used in the transportation sector, while also meeting the needs of electricity consumption. Only 15% of the wind farm is owned by outside investors, again highlighting local involvement.
Samsø’s achievements towards establishing a society wholly reliant on renewable energy will likely be used as a model for other island communities, not just in Denmark, but throughout the world.
- SAMSOE The Danish Renewable Energy Island
- The Danish Energy Way
- The European Union's ALTENER Programme