Alternative sources of energy has been a popular topic for political campaigns and in the news. The United States has implemented some clean energy technology, like wind power, but we are nowhere near the level that Denmark is providing. During the course of one day earlier this year, Denmark produced 140% of the country’s demand with wind and even has enough to share with neighboring countries.
Denmark is proving that, given the right conditions, a country can literally run off wind. That 140% statistic was gathered from a windy day earlier this year and the turbines weren’t even operating at full power. German, Sweden, and Norway are the thankful neighbors who are also using Denmark’s wind-generated energy, which is possible thanks to interconnectors. Since the country is producing enough energy to share, this also means that they have enough to store away for days when the wind isn’t as abundant. However, not every day will be as windy as the day the country produced 140% of its demand. That day actually was pretty severe weather-wise for the country. Still, last year, Denmark produced almost 40% of the entire nation’s electricity needs with wind alone.
While that statistic is nothing to squawk at, it can be misleading. Out of all of Denmark’s energy use, only one-tenth is electricity. All other energy is provided by natural gas, coal, and oil. These energy forms are used mainly by heating and power plants. When these plants are able to convert those energy sources into renewable options, Denmark is looking at becoming completely free of fossil fuel use.
To maintain these high numbers, Denmark has been improving the technology in their turbines each year. Location of wind farms also plays a big role in how much energy is generated. Currently, only a third of the country’s turbines are located offshore, which is the best place for a strong breeze. By 2020, that number is predicted to jump to 50%. With that will come even higher numbers of energy output.
With more expected output, however, comes the need for more storage. Norway and Germany take 80% of Denmark’s wind power output, while Sweden consumes the remaining 20%. When these countries receive the excess energy, they don’t necessarily have a demand for it at that moment. Therefore, they need somewhere to store it and a method to consume it later. Currently, Norway and Germany store the energy in their hydropower stations and access it later by dripping water into the station. Additional research is being conducted on how to use and improve this method of storage so that other countries can use it in the future.
What Denmark is doing now will be seen as revolutionary in the future. If the end goal of having a network of countries connected and powered by renewable resources becomes a reality, not only will it benefit those countries, but the rest of the world as well. This is the kind of innovation and thinking that the 21st-century needs.