Denmark Sets a World Record for Producing Energy Through Wind Power

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We are all well aware of the importance of encouraging renewable sources of electricity, and it seems that Denmark is leading the cause. It’s no news the country has been the pioneer in wind power generation – last year it generated a world record of 39.1% of its overall electricity from wind only.

The Nordic country installed its first turbines in the mid-1970’s after it was affected by oil shocks. At that time, it was getting most of its energy supply through imports, and the need to find a more secure way of generating electricity led to the idea of wind turbines.

With new projects on the books and strong support from the Danish government, Denmark will continue to make significant investments in wind power. They have set a target of reaching 50% of their power demand from renewable sources, and they are already way ahead of their 2020 goal.

Europe as leaders

Denmark’s effort and achievement adds to national records in countries such as the UK and Germany, which further establish Europe as a pioneer and leader in the wind power industry.

As well as Denmark, countries like Scotland and England have built offshore wind farms (located in the ocean, where wind speeds are stronger than inland), which have proved successful. In 2014, 25% the UK’s electricity demand came from the wind, a 15% increase from 2013.

Other European nations, such as Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Romania are also actively using wind power, generating between 10% and 40% of their electricity demand through wind farms. Along with Denmark, these countries were highlighted in a report produced by the European Commission Joint Research Centre on wind energy technology.

As the most successful European country to obtain energy from wind farms, Denmark has an ambitious goal set to completely eradicate greenhouse gases, and the government has a target of reducing them by 40% by 2020, in comparison to 1990. So far, it’s working.

Reaching 140% of its daily demand

After a particularly windy 24 hours on July 9th, Denmark was able to reach its daily electricity demand through wind turbines, enabling them to sell the remaining energy to its neighbouring countries: Norway, Sweden and Germany.

On that day, wind farms produced 116% of the nation’s energy demands, and by 3 am on July 10th, when the demand was lower, the figure increased to 140%.

Reaching more than 100% of the whole country’s demand of energy in one day is certainly a good precedent for the future, and Denmark already has plans to keep this happening. The Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building believes that the nation could potentially get 71% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, through expanding wind farms and also converting existing power plants and heat pumps to use biomass. In 2000, that percentage was only 16.

However optimistic, electricity only makes 10% of Denmark’s total energy usage, which is still dominated by fossil fuels. This ratio is changing, especially if we’re talking about coal, which use is expected to drop about 57% from 2012 to 2020.

Brian Vad Mathiesen, an energy-planning professor at Aalborg University, says what Denmark really needs to focus on is transitioning from using fossil fuels to activate heat pumps, and use wind energy instead.

“It is moving too slowly with getting the heat pumps into our heating systems and thus integrated into the energy and heat sector,” Vad Mathiesen stated. “That becomes more and more pressing as the amount of wind energy increases.”

Too much of it

As a matter of fact, the nation could soon suffer from overabundance of energy obtained through the wind. At the moment, Denmark is selling their excess energy to other countries, but if this keeps happening in the future, it could cause prices deflate, which could potentially lead energy companies to charge more to cover the cost gap, or even remove the incentive companies have to stay in business.

The Director for Danish Energy, Lars Aagaard, thinks these systems will be unsustainable in the future, leading to high price volatility in the energy market, where the prices will heavily fluctuate from very low to extremely high.

“If we keep putting up wind turbines, we will keep having low prices in the market, which means consumers would have to pay a high price related to their energy consumption”, he stated.

As a possible solution to this problem, Aagaard mentioned that electrifying the heating and transport sectors could be a good idea. This way, energy companies would have an outlet for any excess wind power. In addition, finding new ways of renewable energy rather than relying too heavily on wind farms could also be favourable.

Bright future

Whatever the potential risks, for the moment Denmark are benefiting economically from their leading position in the wind energy industry, not only as users but also as manufacturers. Currently, about 9 of every 10 offshore wind turbines mounted globally are made in Denmark.

And they have ambitious plans ahead of them: the country announced a new installation of 350 MW of near-shore wind farms, set to be built on the east coast of Jutland. Moreover, a further 1.5GW in offshore wind farms will be added by the end of the decade, hoping to achieve their 2020 target to slow greenhouse gas production.