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Students Study Renewable Energy on Denmark's Island of Samso

Renewable Energy

College of the Atlantic is an University partner on EcoWatch.

Thirteen students, two graduate students and two faculty members from College of the Atlantic (COA) are in Europe for two weeks, studying ways to bring energy independence and cost reductions to Maine islands.

All 21 wind turbines on Island Samso produce electricity which the “samsings” (residents of Samso) sell to the mainland. Approximately 4,000 samsings have started their own household economy, which has developed new areas of jobs. Photo credit: Joanna Weaver / College of the Atlantic

In a unique partnership with the Island Institute funded by the Fund for Maine Islands, COA students are engaged in a “monster course” that’s actually three distinct, one-credit courses: Energy and Technology, Impact Investing and Islands: Energy, Economy and Community.

While interacting with COA faculty members Jay Friedlander and Anna Demeo, with Maine islanders and with energy researchers from Denmark, students also are attending the renowned Samso Energy Academy, to learn firsthand from residents of this farming and tourist community how Samso became “carbon negative” (absorbing more carbon emissions than it produces) through efficiency upgrades, wind and solar power production, biomass-distributed district heating, and other elements of a renewable energy portfolio.

Taking part in a group discussion and "monster course" orientation at the Samso Energy Academy, from left, are Samso Energy Academy Director Soren Hermansen; COA student Zak Kendall, of New Sharon, Maine; Sam Saltonstall, of Peaks Island, Maine; and COA student Wade Lyman, of Mt. Desert, Maine. Photo credit: Joanna Weaver / College of the Atlantic

In early October, they will return to Maine and the course will continue. Students will work to develop project ideas and feasibility studies for energy initiatives that Maine islanders can implement on the Maine coast to help their communities become more sustainable.

“Bringing education beyond the classroom and taking on real problems elevates the learning to a new level and merges thought and action,” said Friedlander, the Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business. “Students are more engaged and have depth of understanding far beyond the textbook.”

You can follow the unique educational experience of COA students in Samso by reading their blog posts, which will be posted regularly at EcoWatch.

Samso was appointed Denmark’s renewable energy island in 1997. With the appointment, the goal was to become self-sufficient in renewable energy and “create a demonstration window for the proven technologies of the time.”

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The local community on Samsø owns 11 land-based wind turbines that produce more than enough power to cover the entire island’s electricity consumption. The islands community earns a larger or smaller amount of money depending on how large a share they have in the wind turbine.

Samso was appointed Denmark’s renewable energy island in 1997. With the appointment, the goal was to become self-sufficient in renewable energy and “create a demonstration window for the proven technologies of the time.” The local community on Samso owns 11 land-based wind turbines that produce more than enough power to cover the entire island’s electricity consumption. Photo credit: David Camlin / College of the Atlantic

All 21 wind turbines produce electricity which the “samsings” (residents of Samsø) sell to the mainland. Approximately 4,000 samsings have started their own household economy, which has developed new areas of jobs.

Study is occurring at Samso Energy Academy (Samso Energiakademi)—an international meeting center where new exhibitions about technology and social measures are continuously developed to promote energy reductions with a focus on the earth’s survival.

The Academy is a local workplace with 12 persons in the project staff, who works with renewable energy and energy savings worldwide. The Energy Academy also houses Energy Service Samsø, where the island’s residents get free advice when they want to figure out where the savings are for example by isolation or how to replace the oil burner.

The Energy Academy organizes seminars, conference, workshops and corporate events. More than 6,000 politicians, journalists and students from around the world each year visit Samsø to see the renewable energy island and learn from the pioneering community’s experience.

Each student in the course will have the opportunity to develop an energy project that reflects the needs and priorities of his or her own community. Island Institute staff and COA faculty will work with participants to support project development by focusing on three main elements throughout the course: energy technology, financing and business development, and community engagement.

Sample project topics could include community-owned offshore wind, implementing island-wide energy efficiency, accessing alternative heating fuels and systems, evaluating offshore wind power or developing energy-focused ecotourism.

“Creating synergy between two leading institutions on the coast of Maine will amplify our ability to effectively address some of the greatest challenges to the sustainability of the region’s year-round island communities,” said college president Darron Collins ’92.

“College of the Atlantic is home to leading scholars in human ecology while the Island Institute brings more than 30 years of experience in community development and a rich network of community partners,” Collins said. “This collaboration will facilitate the sharing of information, from world-class research to a grounded understanding of local assets and strategies, to develop and implement appropriate, viable solutions.”

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Protesters gathered outside US Bank and Wells Fargo locations around the U.S. to protest investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Dec. 1, 2016. This photo is from a protest outside US Bank in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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