by Chloe Rodman
New York Times’ Diane Cardwell (2015) writes about the impact that Samso, a 44 square-foot island off the coast of Denmark, has been making in regards to clean energy production. A majority of the island’s 3,800 citizens decided that they no longer wanted to rely on foreign, costly fossil fuels. Rather, they made it their goal to become completely powered by green energy. This $80 million project has resulted in 10 wind turbines as well as solar, geothermal and plant- based energy systems. These four methods have allowed the island to thrive, producing more energy than it consumes. Samso, which used to be primarily dependent on coal and diesel, has become a role model for many other islands around the globe, which are also striving to wean off of fossil fuels. The Samso Energy Academy was created to educate others about new forms of green energy. Many individuals are sent to the academy to learn about the island’s methods and return home to teach their own communities about the changes they can make.
One of the innovative steps Samso has made is the burning of hay instead of oil to heat houses and water. The island is agriculture based, and the government is pushing for farmers to grow more elephant grass in addition to hay because it not only grows faster than hay, but also has higher energy content. These grasses are an eighth cheaper then the fossil fuels they had been using previously. The heat produced by the burned grass is transferred to households over the island in a central heating system using underground pipes. People who live on the outskirts of the island, too far away to be included in the central pipe system, receive government incentives to make their houses environmentally friendly by installing solar panels or heat pumps.
Using islands to test new green technologies that aren’t thoroughly developed or cheap enough for mainland use has become a common trend. Soma, The Virgin Islands, The Caribbean Islands, and islands off the coast of Maine and Alaska have all been testing new ideas. For example, currently in the United States there are no offshore wind farms. However, Maine has set aside a portion of its lobster grounds as a test site. Similarly, Denmark, who’s goal is to be fossil fuel-free by 2050, has taken wind turbine and central heating system technology from Samso and incorporated it into many communities across the country. As of now, 40 percent of Denmark’s electricity is from wind turbines and 60 percent of houses get their heat from a central green source.
Cardwell, Diane. 2015. Green-Energy Inspiration Off the Coast of Denmark. The New York Times. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/business/energy-environment/green-energy-inspiration-from-samso-denmark.html?referrer=&_r=0