Quantcast
Renewable Energy

Samso: World's Most Inspiring Renewable Energy-Powered Island

Wade Lyman, a College of the Atlantic human ecology major from Bar Harbor, spent his formative years developing a deep appreciation for the natural world—and a deep fear of the possibility of ecological collapse. “I hope that involving myself in this cooperative sustainability effort with the Samso course is a good way to rapidly develop and refine a skill set that can be applied to a career in sustainable development. I’m particularly interested in energy storage and smart grid technologies, as well as heating and cooling, especially in difficult climates."

[Editor's note: This fall, 13 students and two faculty members from College of the Atlantic visited Denmark's island of Samso, the world's first island to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Here's an article by one of the students that visited Samso.]

College of the Atlantic students spent three weeks on Samso Island, Denmark, to learn about and adapt energy sustainability methods for the Maine islands. Photo credit: Jay Friedlander / College of the Atlantic

Considering Samso's reputation as the home of perhaps one of the most inspiring renewable energy projects in the world, it's very encouraging to leave it with a sense of normalcy.

Very early on in the course, I got the sense that apart from the initial costs of the energy projects there were no deviations from normal life associated with the switch to renewables. Their goal was simple: replace fossil sources of energy for electricity, heat and transportation with tried-and-true renewables; and that's precisely what they did.

While quite remarkable in many respects, Samso's energy project is most noteworthy in that it was achieved by un-extraordinary means.

A local electrician on Samso expressed the idea clearly: "We don't necessarily do anything different here on Samso, we just provide people with more information about existing energy solutions and actually use the available technology and subsidies."

I was surprised by the visual subtlety of Samso's sustainability measures.

There were no major innovations, no ground breaking technologies developed for the move toward decarbonization, even the scale of the projects seemed surprisingly unobtrusive. Instead, 11 land-based wind turbines—each harnessing enough power for 600 homes—provide comprehensive electricity for the entire island, and several district heating plants provide heat and hot water for most of the homes and businesses. The rest is covered by several municipal- and privately-owned solar installations, heat pumps and wood stoves.

The transportation sector, which comprises Samso's most energy intensive investments (including a ferry that runs constantly, year round), is more than offset by 10 offshore wind turbines.

When reading about Samso, the idea of 21 sky-scraping turbines seemed insufferably obtrusive and loud, but I changed my opinion when I actually experienced it. Although they were very conspicuous, it was clear that the amount of power they generated was well worth any negative visual impact they might have on the landscape. And as for their impact on the soundscape, I stood right beneath them in a roaring wind and found their noise subtle and rhythmic—easily ignored.

Read page 1

A local couple in the Samso community told me that most of the negative impacts of wind disappear when the people are allowed to invest in the projects themselves. They explained that they were among the community members investing in a turbine adjacent to their driveway.

When reading about Samso, the idea of 21 sky-scraping turbines seemed insufferably obtrusive and loud, but I changed my opinion when I actually experienced it. Photo credit: Wade Lyman / College of the Atlantic

Now that they associate the turbines with economic gain, it doesn't look at all like an eye sore, instead it "looks like a sculpture and sounds like music."

In my opinion, even without financial compensation, the turbines instill a sense of security. The knowledge of their tremendous power—providing energy for 600 Danish homes—is substantiated by their impressive aesthetic, which ultimately leaves me with hope for eventual freedom from fossil fuels. That alone makes them worth it.

Seeing such a dramatic switch to wind power makes me wonder how social resistance to the technology was overcome, given that many people in the U.S. seem unconditionally opposed to wind turbines.

The courageous leaders of the Samso Energy Academy, Soren Hermansen and Malena Lunden, described a long struggle and democratic discussion replete with social nuances and disagreements that eventually led to a project that most community members could agree on.

After spending three weeks on the island and having discussions with the local community, it is clear that wind was the dominant renewable resource available and that Samso may have been  particularly well suited both logistically and culturally for wind as opposed to solar as a main power source.

On Samso, the strong east winds seldom stop, and on several hilltops stand the archaic remains of long decommissioned windmills. Turbines are thus seen as a part of the cultural landscape—and the roots of this sentiment are deep and resilient.

In past centuries, the windmills of Samso were the axle of the community's wheel; the landscape was stippled with more than 100 turbines, which drove the grindstones that partly defined the local food system and economy.

It seems that the community of Samso may have been primed for wind projects, but how much of a role this cultural history played was unclear to me.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Samso: World’s First 100% Renewable Energy-Powered Island Is a Beacon for Sustainable Communities

Wind Energy Could Generate Nearly 20 Percent of World’s Electricity by 2030

Low-Carbon Energy World ‘Feasible’ by 2050

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Science
A foldable, biodegradable battery based on paper and bacteria. Seokheun Choi / Binghamton University, CC BY-ND

Could Paper Power the Next Generation of Devices?

By Seokheun Choi

It seems like every few months there's a new cellphone, laptop or tablet that is so exciting people line up around the block to get their hands on it. While the perpetual introduction of new, slightly more advanced electronics has made businesses like Apple hugely successful, the short shelf life of these electronics is bad for the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Blue Point Brewing Company

Long Island Brewer Launches 'Good Reef Ale' to Help Restore New York’s Oyster Reefs

Between the 1600s and the early 20th century, European settlers in New York City ate their way through 220,000 acres of oyster reefs covering 350 square miles, The Washington Post reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Oceans
California restaurants will only be able to serve plastic straws like these upon request. Horia Varlan / CC BY 2.0

California Becomes First State to Regulate Plastic Straws

California became the first state in the U.S. to ban plastic straws in dine-in restaurants Thursday when Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to that effect, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The law, which will enter into force Jan. 1, prohibits restaurants from providing straws unless a customer requests one. It covers only sit-down eateries, not fast food restaurants, delis or coffee shops.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Giannis Giannakopoulos / YouTube

'Partying' Spiders Blanket Greek Beach on 1,000-Foot Cobweb

Arachnophobes beware. A shoreline by the Greek town of Aitoliko has been swamped by a mass of mating spiders and 1,000 feet of their cobwebs.

Earlier this week, a local named Giannis Giannakopoulos uploaded a YouTube video and posted several pictures of the spectacle on his Facebook page, showing shrubs, palm fronds and other greenery completely veiled by spider webs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Frank Straub / EyeEm / Getty Images

Greenpeace Report: Europe Has 10 Years Left to Ditch Fossil Fuel Cars

Europe must phase out the sales of new gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars by 2028 if it wants to live up to its Paris climate agreement emissions-reduction pledges, according to new research by Germany's Aerospace Center.

Even conventional hybrid cars, which feature gasoline-powered engines, would have to disappear by the mid-2030s if Europe intends to fulfill its part of the Paris deal to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the Greenpeace-commissioned study.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
An ambulance crashed into a fallen tree from Storm Ali in Newcastle on Sept. 19. Owen Humphreys / PA Images via Getty Images

100 mph Winds Kill Two in First Named Storm to Hit UK and Ireland This Season

Storm Ali, the first named storm of the UK storm season, killed two and sent several to the hospital as winds of more than 100 miles per hour walloped Ireland, Scotland and Northern England Wednesday, The Guardian reported.

More than 250,000 homes and businesses in Ireland lost power and 30,000 lost power in southwest Scotland.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Oceans
Hawaii, Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) with surface reflections. Robinson Ed / Perspectives / Getty Images

Hawaii's Cauliflower Coral Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Listing

Cauliflower coral, a bushy species in the Hawaiian Islands that has been devastated by ocean warming triggered by human-caused climate change, could soon get federal protection. The National Marine Fisheries Service Wednesday announced that listing the species may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act, based on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
David Speier / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Journalist Dies in Clash Over Dirty Coal in Germany

By Andy Rowell

Over the last week, the German Police have deployed thousands of officers, backed up by water cannons and armored vehicles, to evict hundreds of climate activists trying to defend the last remnants of an ancient forest in Germany from being destroyed by RWE, which wants to expand the biggest open coal mine in Europe.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!