Renewables Update

Community power Samsø in Japanese

11 April 2014 Søren Hermansen, Director, Samsø Energy Academy

Samsø today is a society of farmers and a small community with all the functions of any place where people are living together. The difference is that the activity today is fuelled by renewable energy. The wind turbines are producing more than the island consumes. Biomass and solar supplies the heating demand. It has released a lot of resources because of less imported fossil fuels at high costs. The revenue is invested in better infra structure and smart energy systems and in general improvements of houses with better insulation and windows. This is possible because the people decided to invest in their own energy infrastructure. They became masters in their own house and are today keeping the profit margin from saved imported expensive fossil energy. This new “freedom” is the driver that today allows people to dream about a future where also transportation will be fossil energy free. Samsø is depending on ferries to be connected to the mainland Denmark. A new ferry is under construction to be delivered in October this year. The ferry will be fuelled by LNG and eventually upgraded methane from local biogas production. We have biomass waste from households and farming that can supply the fuel for the ferry. Cars will be electric. We have today more electric vehicles per person than any other municipality in Denmark and more to come. We are installing more charging stations so the infrastructure will encourage people to invest in electric cars. Community power is a reality and the climate for decision making is much better than it was before Samsø became an energy island.

Community Power in Japan is growing and it is growing mainly because people can see it is needed badly. After the Fukushima accident there is no doubt that people need to react to the fact that governance and business is not responding to the fear and terror of nuclear power out of control. Business and industry still wants cheap energy and government is responding to the security of energy supply to feed industry in spite of the growing opposition in communities affected by the accident or concerned by the fact provided from Fukushima accident.

It is time to listen to this fear and worry from people, and accept decentralized structures where people are more engaged and active in the future organizational structures. People are ready! And the example of Samsø Renewable Energy Island and many other projects are so obviously clear and simple that government must listen and react. Community power is the citizen fuel for sustainable and responsible changes. Japan has an open window for action – grab it!

Samsø: Europe’s Renewable Energy Island

Fact Box:

  • In 1997, Samsø was named Denmark’s first renewable energy island, based on its ambitions to become energy independent by 2008.
  • In 2006, Samsø already meets 100% of its electricity needs with energy from wind turbines and 70% of its heating needs with renewable fuels.
  • The island has its own Energy Academy and Energy Office, which serves the island and its visitors with information on renewable energy technologies and energy savings.
  • Samsø has received several awards for its achievements in switching to renewable energy.
  • Currently, a trial project on Samsø is investigating the use of rapeseed and elephant grass for heating purposes.
  • Samsø’s Energy Academy itself will demonstrate the sustainable energy solutions, through solar panels that provide the facility with electricity and heat as well as a rainwater-based grey water system.
  • All of Samsø’s district heating is based on renewable energy sources that include straw, solar power and woodchips.
  • With wind turbines and a straw-burning district heating plant just outside its doors, the Energy Academy is providing an ideal meeting point for researchers and students.
  • Every year, each of the island’s offshore wind turbines produces enough electricity to power 2000 Danish homes.
  • Together, the ten turbines just off Samsø’s south coast generate enough clean energy each year to compensate for all the fossil fuel used in transportation on the island. This includes the diesel consumed by the island’s three ferries.
  • Many homes on Samsø generate their own energy through small scale wind turbines and solar panels.
  • Samsø’s onshore wind turbines supply enough wind energy to meet the island’s entire electricity needs.
  • A large proportion of Samsø’s home oil burners have been replaced with pellet stoves, solar heaters, ground-source heat pumps and other renewable heating technologies.
  • Seventy percent of all heating on Samsø is powered by renewable sources.