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Wind power is often criticized for its intermittency: since the wind does not always blow, how can it power a modern industrial economy? One country has proven that wind power can not only provide enough electricity for all of its needs, but even provide excess power for export.
That’s what happened last week in Denmark, when a particularly blustery day caused the country’s wind farms to generate a massive amount of energy. On the evening of Jul. 9, Denmark discovered that its turbines were cranking out 116 percent of the the electricity to meet its needs, and as energy use waned through the night, the figure had soared to 140 percent by 3 a.m. Jul. 10.
Denmark and its neighbors were ready to deal with the excess power. Copenhagen sold 40 percent of the surplus each to neighboring Norway and Germany, and the remaining 20 percent went to Sweden.
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All this information was available in real time on energinet.dk, the website of the Denmark’s transmission systems operator for electricity and gas based in Erritso on the east coast of Jutland, Denmark’s main peninsula. The site tracks the input of renewable power by the minute into the country’s electrical grid.
In fact, it showed the Denmark’s turbines weren’t even operating at their peak capacity of 4.8 gigawatts during the periods of the wind’s peak force.
“It shows that a world powered 100 percent by renewable energy is no fantasy,” said Oliver Joy, a spokesman for trade body the European Wind Energy Association. “Wind energy and renewables can be a solution to decarbonization – and also security of supply at times of high demand.”
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Last week’s energy surplus bolsters the findings by the European Commission Joint Research Center in its annual report on wind energy technology. It cited the successful use of the technology by Denmark as well as Germany, Ireland Portugal, Romania and Spain. It said each of which generates between 10 percent and 40 percent of its electricity from wind.
And Statoil, Norway’s oil and gas giant, said July 7 that it is considering investing in a floating wind farm off Scotland’s east coast. Most offshore wind farms are situated in shallow water to allow them to be fixed to the sea floor. Now Statoil has developed a way to anchor them in deep waters rather than fix them to foundations near the coast, where they are, to many, offensively visible.
Denmark’s profitable wind recalls May 11, 2014, when bright sunshine and steady winds gave Germany a day’s worth of free electricity. Germany vigorously promotes renewable energy and has enacted regulations encouraging investment in such generators. Its commercial grid is required to buy every bit of unconventional energy generated in the country.
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But while many conventional power companies in Germany remain committed to generating electricity with fossil fuels, the Danish appear to be nearly unanimous in their support of renewable sources of energy, especially wind farms. The country’s goal is to produce half its electricity with renewable sources by 2020, and 84 percent by 2035.
Actually Denmark could beat that first target date because of a recent surge in building new wind farms, according to Kees van der Leun, the chief commercial officer of the Ecofys energy consultancy.
“They have a strong new builds programme with a net gain of 0.5 gigawatts in new onshore windfarms due before the end of the decade,” van der Leun said. “Some 1.5 gigawatts from new offshore windfarms will also be built, more than doubling the present capacity. … [T]here really is a lot of momentum.”
By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com