Where the Baltic Sea meets the North Sea lies Denmark, a small, flat nation of islands—more than 400 to be exact. It’s not part of the G7 and not exactly grabbing global headlines on a regular basis, but it’s a country that’s considerably further along than the rest of the world in one area in particular: wind power.
Danish leaders have long seen the potential in harnessing the winds that rage across the low-lying Danish topography. The country is one of the first to see the opportunity in developing onshore wind production, which has resulted in Denmark holding the title as a wind-first nation, with the world’s highest share of wind in its electricity mix (more than 50% as of 2020).
Denmark is now going for the offshore market, manufacturing islands to house mighty turbines that will not only bring power to the Danes, but perhaps their European neighbors too.
There’s much to be learned from this small but mighty country, which is why we sat down with Dr. Birte Holst Jørgensen, senior researcher at DTU Wind Energy of Denmark, the largest public research organization for wind energy in the world. Jørgensen is proud of all her home country has achieved with its wind-powered national strategy, and so we asked her a few questions on how Denmark got there and what others can do to copy and paste the country’s green energy success story.
What is Denmark’s goal in the move towards a fully renewable-powered nation
BHJ: We have a goal of having 100% green electricity and a 70% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030. We also aim at being fossil-free by 2050.
Exploiting our immense wind resources, we are constructing the world’s first energy islands.
What are energy islands?
BHJ: We have a good track record of combining economic growth with constant energy consumption. We are constructing artificial energy islands that will serve as hubs for generating electricity from offshore wind farms and distributing it to the Danish grid as well as to neighboring countries.
How much energy can be generated from the energy islands?
BHJ: The energy island in the North Sea is expected to generate 10GW by 2033. That is equivalent to 10 million households, which is more than the population of Denmark (5.6 million). This will make green electricity accessible to households and businesses. Also, some of the electricity will be converted into hydrogen by means of electrolyzers and used in sectors difficult to decarbonize such as heavy transport, maritime transport, and some high-heat industrial processes.
You’re already a leader in wind power, but can technology make you even better?
BHJ: I’m a technology optimist. By using technology to make better use of existing data, it will improve operation and maintenance which will extend the life of the wind turbines. Technology will also be a driver to bring down the cost of energy by making the wind turbines larger and more reliable.
In order to achieve optimal results with technology, it’s important to test it in a real setting. For example, DTU is deeply involved in EnergyLab Nordhavn in Copenhagen. This is the first full-scale smart city energy lab, with a goal to research, design, and demonstrate the energy systems of the future.
What can the rest of us copy and paste from Denmark’s renewables roadmap?
BHJ: With an increasing population, wealth, and universal access to energy, energy consumption will inevitably increase. It is vital to use the right energy in an intelligent way. Denmark has shown that collaboration and smart planning are essential to ensure a smooth transition that benefits both the planet and society.
On that note, we’ve just launched a report at DTU Wind Energy that shares R&D perspectives and insights on how wind energy can accelerate the energy transition. It includes analysis of every aspect ranging from wind energy systems to wind technologies, materials, and components.