Into wind -- trip to Danish green island Samsoe (2)

19:52, August 19, 2010      

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Islanders have since invested in numerous energy-saving solutions for their homes including solar water heaters, thickly insulated walls, thermal pumps and energy-efficient stoves.

Signe Marie Holst, for instance, was hesitant about buying a windmill share. "I participated in many of the meetings and tried to be part of this project," she recalled. "But I was really scared, as I had very little money."

A former ship-builder, she instead designed a central heating system for her own house, by connecting a wood-fired stove to water pipes that run under its floors. In winter, the water circulates warmth; and in summer, it carries heat away. The wood for the stove comes from trees in her garden. "It's a very low-cost project," she adds.

Tranberg, however, uses electricity generated by wind-power to run his farm's milk coolers. While they chill the 4.5 tons of milk his cows produce every day, the heat generated as a by-product is piped to his home for use in heating and hot water.

Bigger systems include a straw-fired, central heating plant, which is co-owned by 260 local homeowners and serves two local towns. Future plans include a biogas plant that will use organic waste from farms to produce methane gas for use in specially adapted cars and ferries, or in organic fertilizer.


Whatever the solution, Hermansen said the aim is to use proven technologies and a community-based ownership model.

"In future, energy will be more expensive," he continued. "If we're smart here, we will speculate in investing in the future, saying energy may cost 30 percent or 40 percent more in 10 years' time."

Investing in renewable projects today might seem risky, but will be increasingly profitable over time. "The real changes will come from us, not the utility companies," he predicts.

However, political intervention will be crucial, as governments have the financial capacity and regulatory framework to subsidize renewable energy projects and cut fossil fuel dependence.

Talking about Denmark's own commitment, Hermansen said, "The progressive policy of the 1990s was better than it is today, as the present government believes in market growth only."

But that isn't taking the wind out of Samsoe's sails and the prospects for a renewable energy future are bright.

As Holst says, "I notice some of the newcomers on Samsoe have moved here because of the energy island project, because they think this is the way for the future and they want to be part of it."

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