Floating Turbines on the North Shore?

Floating_offshore_wind-400x225SAFE supports building offshore wind turbines on the North Shore that will connect their generated power into the grid on the Footprint site in Salem. SAFE advocated for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between the City of Salem and Footprint and in the final version of the CBA (2014) this language is included under Environmental Initiatives: “Footprint RealCo will support renewable energy initiatives, and will work with the City to assist with off shore wind interconnections to the National Grid switchyard on the site.”

There are promising signs now from Scotland that offshore floating wind turbines will perform very well. That means that the North Shore of Massachusetts with its excellent wind resources is a potential site for turbines. Statoil placed 5 floating turbines with a maximum capacity of 30 MW off the coast of Scotland and they are exceeding all expectations in delivering energy.

Five years ago, Statoil most was working on developing offshore wind in Maine until Governor Paul LePage blocked their efforts. Statoil withdrew in 2013 citing regulatory instability in the state. Let’s try to interest Statoil in Massachusetts where we need more renewables to meet the goals of our mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards under the Global Warming Solutions Act. And we now have a more hospitable political climate for offshore wind.

Climate Action reports on its website that Scotland is again leading the way in wind. Most of the country’s power comes from onshore wind turbines and hydropower. Now there’s offshore wind.

There in that rugged climate, the “world’s first floating offshore wind farm has performed better than expected after its initial three months of operation.” Read more.

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A wind farm using promising new technology is proposed for deep ocean off the California coast

Martha’s Vineyard, it turns out, wasn’t the best place to launch the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Back in 2001, when Cape Wind Associates proposed installing 130 wind turbines across the Horseshoe Shoal, it cited the abundant renewable energy the installation would deliver to tens of thousands of homes. Those turbines, however, would have stood within sight of those same communities, which include popular tourist districts and the private compounds of the Koch brothers and the Kennedys. The issue of wind-turbine visibility is a peculiar one—after all, there are plenty of highly visible coal, nuclear, and solar facilities, compared to which wind turbines have a certain majestic grandeur—but it clearly contributed to sinking Cape Wind. After years of well-funded opposition, the project fell apart in late 2014. While the great wind powers of Europe—Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom—were planting turbines at a furious pace in the shallow bottoms of the Baltic, the Dogger Bank, and the North Sea, the U.S. wind industry appeared dead in the water.

Read more: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2017-1-january-february/feature/floating-wind-turbines-could-power-west-coast

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Off Long Island, Wind Power Tests the Waters


Only a few years ago, the long-held dream of harnessing the strong, steady gusts off the Atlantic coast to make electricity seemed destined to remain just that. Proposals for offshore wind farms foundered on the shoals of high costs, regulatory hurdles and the fierce opposition of those who didn’t want giant industrial machinery puncturing the pristine ocean views.

Now the industry is poised to take off, just as the American political landscape and energy policy itself face perhaps the greatest uncertainty in a generation.

Last fall, five turbines in the waters of Rhode Island — the country’s first offshore farm — began delivering power to the grid. European energy developers like Statoil and Dong Energy are making big investments to bring projects to American waters. Last year in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed into law a mandate that is pushing development forward.

And in New York, after years of stymied progress, the Long Island Power Authority has reached an agreement with Deepwater Wind, which built the Rhode Island turbine array, to drop a much larger farm — 15 turbines capable of running 50,000 average homes — into the ocean about 35 miles from Montauk. If approved by the utility board on Wednesday, the $1 billion installation could become the first of several in a 256-square-mile parcel, with room for as many as 200 turbines, that Deepwater is leasing from the federal government.

Continue reading the main story

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America’s First Offshore Wind Farm May Power Up a New Industry

A just-completed project off the coast of Rhode Island, though relatively tiny, is at the forefront of a sea-based transition to renewable energy.

The Block Island Wind Farm recently finished construction of wind turbines. They will start capturing wind power by October of this year, and will generate enough electricity to power about 17,000 homes.

From New York Times contributor, Justin Gillis:

By global standards, the Block Island Wind Farm is a tiny project, just five turbines capable of powering about 17,000 homes. Yet many people are hoping its completion, with the final blade bolted into place at the end of last week, will mark the start of a new American industry, one that could eventually make a huge contribution to reducing the nation’s climate-changing pollution.

The idea of building turbines offshore, where strong, steady wind could, in theory, generate large amounts of power, has long been seen as a vital step toward a future based on renewable energy. Yet even as European nations installed thousands of the machines, American proposals ran into roadblocks, including high costs, murky rules about the use of the seafloor, and stiff opposition from people who did not want their ocean views marred by machinery…

Mr. Grybowski and the company he runs, Deepwater Wind of Providence, R.I., have now done it. They had a lot of help from the political leadership of Rhode Island, which has seized the lead in this nascent industry, ahead of bigger states like New York and Massachusetts.

Now, offshore wind may be on the verge of rapid growth in the United States.

Using a law passed by a Republican-led Congress in 2005 and signed by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has been clarifying the ground rules and leasing out large patches of the ocean floor for wind-power development. Nearly two dozen projects are on the drawing board, with some potentially including scores of turbines…

Read more.

One of five turbines that make up the Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, off the Rhode Island coast. Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times.
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One step closer: First American offshore wind turbines installed

Installation is now complete at the new Block Island wind power facility. On August 8, one member of the team tweeted, “I think it now qualifies as a ‘farm’ -2nd turbine completed last night #BlockIslandWindFarm@DeepwaterWind

From the blog of Greg Alvarez, on the American Wind Energy Association’s website (awea.org) —

American offshore wind power is one step closer to becoming a reality, with installation of the first turbines at Deepwater Wind’s Block Island project now complete.

Construction on the country’s first offshore wind farm began last spring, off the coast of Rhode Island, and the project is expected to be fully operational later this fall.

With an installed capacity of 30 megawatts, the five-turbine Deepwater Wind wind farm will generate enough electricity to supply all of Block Island’s needs, while also sending some to mainland Rhode Island. This will be a clean, affordable and welcome development for Block Island’s residents, who have long had to rely on imported, expensive and polluting diesel fuel for energy.

Read more.

image1-4The Deepwater Wind offshore project is expected to be fully operational later this fall.
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France launches tender for floating wind farm – world’s first

France has launched a tender for what would be the world’s first large-scale floating wind farm, inviting companies to submit proposals for installations off both its northern and southern coasts.

French environmental agency ADEME posted a tender document on Wednesday calling for proposals for wind farms of between three to six turbines, with the capacity for at least 5MW per turbine, at three sites in the Mediterranean and one site in the Bay of Biscay, off the southern coast of Brittany.

As Reuters reports, floating wind technology aims to remove limitations for offshore wind farms, which are foundation-based and restricted to sites up to 50m in depth.

The technology has been pioneered by Portugal and Norway in the past few years, each with a single floating turbine, and Portugal plans to build a 25 MW floating wind demonstration farm.


The French project will be the first to test floating offshore wind on a large scale, however, as part of a push by the government to encourage the transition from a nuclear-heavy energy market to one that produces at least a third of its energy through renewables.

According to Reuters, the French government has made €150 million ($1US63.53 million) available for the cutting edge project, a third as investment subsidies and two-thirds as loans.

Feed-in tariff bids could range between 150 to 275 euros per megawatt, according to industry specialists, who expect the government will select two or three bids with a total combined capacity of 45 to 100 megawatt, depending on the number and size of the turbines proposed.

Bidders will have to propose how much capacity they would want to build and specify what sort of feed-in tariff they hope to get for any electricity produced.

According to the tender document, turbines must have a demonstrated lifespan of at least two years, though the government expects the projects — if chosen and constructed — to last at least 15 to 20 years. The tender will be open for submissions through April 4, 2016.


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Amazon Invests Big in Wind Power

Wind farm

on Friday, Jul 17th, 2015


Amazon is more than just an online store. It’s a company that invests in renewable energy. Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently announced that it contracted with Iberdrola Renewables to build and operate a 208 megawatt wind farm in North Carolina’s Perquimans and Pasquotank counties. When completed, it will be the first utility-scale wind farm in the state.

Called the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, it is expected to come online in December 2016. It will generate approximately 670,000 megawatt hours of wind energy a year. That’s enough to power over 61,000 American homes annually. The energy will be delivered to the electrical grid that supplies AWS Cloud data centers.

In November 2014, AWS announced its commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy use globally. In April, the company announced that about 25 percent of the power it used globally comes from renewable energy. The goal is to increase that figure to at least 40 percent renewable energy use by the end of 2016.

In January, AWS announced a renewable energy project called theAmazon Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) in Benton County, Indiana. It is expected to generate 500,000 MWh of wind power a year, or the annual energy usage of 46,000 American homes, and is expected to come online in January 2016. The energy generated will also be used to help power AWS Cloud data centers.

AWS doesn’t just invest in wind power to help meet its renewable energy goals. Last month, the company announced a solar power project called Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East in Virginia, which is expected to generate 170,000 MWh of solar power a year. It is expected to come online in October 2016 and will be the largest solar farm in Virginia with all energy generated powering AWS Cloud data centers.

Combined with the North Carolina wind farm project, Amazon’s renewable power projects will deliver over 1.3 million MWh of power, or enough energy to power 15,000 American homes a year.

The huge potential for wind power in the U.S.

Amazon’s investment in wind farms is smart given the big potential for wind power in the U.S. Currently, wind power generates enough electricity to power over 11 million American homes, according to theNatural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In some months, wind power generates 6 percent of the nation’s electricity — but that doesn’t begin to touch its potential. Some experts think wind power could generate 30 percent of electricity needs in the U.S.

Investing in wind power is one way to reduce carbon emissions. Climate science experts say that carbon emissions need to be reduced to from the current 400 parts per million (ppm) to 350 ppm in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. So, wind power, and renewable energy in general, is good for the environment and the economy. The current wind power sector provides jobs for at least 75,000 Americans. A 250 MW wind farm (about 100 turbines) creates 1,073 jobs over the lifetime of the project. That’s the ole triple bottom line at work.

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Offshore wind still the best bet for clean energy

Boston Globe

By Ann Berwick   JUNE 29, 2015

But the bill has it right: For the Northeast to address climate change, developing offshore wind is a necessity. That’s because nothing beats offshore wind for generating power.

There is no longer any question among reputable scientists that greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity are largely responsible for climate change. Conceptually, doing something to reduce those emissions is remarkably simple. Most of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from just three sources: electricity generation, transportation, and the heating of buildings. To cut emissions drastically, we need to do three things: reduce the amount of energy we use; “green” the electric grid with renewable sources of energy; and — as much as possible — use that clean electricity to run electric vehicles and heat buildings.

In other words, green electricity can keep the lights on while phasing out gasoline and dirty heating oil.

Offshore wind energy fits into this picture because of the need for clean electricity generation — both to power everything we now use electricity for, and as a prerequisite to electrifying transportation and heating.

In this part of the country, there are currently only four potential large sources of renewable power for generating electricity: onshore wind, hydropower (mostly from Canada and some from northern New England), solar, and offshore wind. Examine each option more closely and it becomes apparent that we cannot do without offshore wind.

Onshore wind power from northern New England is an important resource. But getting the power to Massachusetts requires transmission lines through the northern states, which poses a big political challenge. Placing large numbers of onshore wind turbines in southern New England is impractical — the area is more densely populated, and we will never have the large land-based wind farms here that have been built out West.

An enormous amount of hydropower is generated by huge rivers in Canada, and to some extent in northern New England. But the so-called “Northern Pass” proposal for transmission lines for hydropower from Canada through New Hampshire is on the rocks politically, which speaks, again, to the difficulty of running transmission lines south.

Solar power is becoming more affordable, and over time will become an increasingly significant source of electricity.

But given current technologies, no other renewable resource can compete in terms of scale with offshore wind. The northeastern and mid-Atlantic coast are some of the windiest areas in the world. Even though Massachusetts has done a remarkable job of increasing solar power over the last eight years, Cape Wind alone would produce more than half the power generated by all of the solar panels installed in the state to date. Europe is way ahead of us, with 74 offshore wind farms generating power equivalent to the production of 10 large coal-fired power plants, according to the European Wind Energy Association.

Yes, offshore wind remains expensive, although the economies of scale that will come with the development of an offshore wind industry should drive prices down. In addition, many other ways to keep electricity costs down have not been fully exploited. The most important are conservation and efficiency. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has rated Massachusetts first in the nation in those departments, but we can do even better. The potential for conservation and efficiency is virtually limitless. For instance, the incandescent light bulbs still in circulation and some Energy Star air conditioning units are — at best — just 10 percent efficient. That means that 90 percent of their electricity is wasted. The point is that we don’t have to use anywhere close to the amount of electricity we do now, no matter how it is generated.

To create a truly green electric grid, however, we need offshore wind in a big way. It’s time for Massachusetts to stand up to the billions of dollars that funded the opposition that stopped Cape Wind. A commitment by the state Legislature to offshore generation would send that signal and offer meaningful encouragement to potential wind developers.

Ann Berwick was Massachusetts’ undersecretary for energy and later headed the Department of Public Utilities in the Patrick administration.

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World’s Largest Offshore Wind Turbine Unveiled in Fukushima


Cole Mellino | June 22, 2015

Japan officially unveiled today its 7 megawatt (MW) wind turbine, the world’s largest offshore turbine to date. It is slated to be operational by September.

The Fukushima Wind Project, located about 12 miles off the coast of Fukushima, installed a 2 MW wind turbine in November 2013. The turbines are part of a pilot project led by Marubeni Co. and funded by the Japanese government with research and support from several public and private organizations, including the University of Tokyo and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The new turbine, which will tower 220 meters above the sea, will transmit electricity to the grid via submarine cable, according to The Japan Times. The government has allocated 50 billion yen ($405 million) for the project, which allows turbines to float in areas that are “too deep for traditional towers fixed to the seafloor,” says Bloomberg News. There are plans to add a third floating turbine with a generating capacity of 5 MW later in the year, which will bring the total output capacity of the project to 14 MW.

Offshore turbines, which have garnered a lot of support in Japan after the Fukushima disaster, “enjoy the benefit of more stable wind than onshore models, and are more efficient because they are not hampered by the constraints posed by land and transportation,” says The Japan Times. 

“Countries are exploring floating offshore wind technology and Japan is in a sense at the same level with Norway and Portugal,” which have about 2 MW of offshore wind generating capacity, Yasuhiro Matsuyama, a trade ministry official in charge of clean energy projects, told Bloomberg News.

In the U.S., Deepwater Wind broke ground (or should I say broke water) this spring on the country’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. When it is finished, the five turbines will have a generating capacity of 30 MW.



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Green-Energy Inspiration Off the Coast of Denmark



Before dawn one morning in October, a handful of Americans gathered at a lonely pier on Samso, a small Danish island about four hours from Copenhagen. Bundled in layers of fleece and wool, the Americans, mostly from islands off the Maine coast, had come to get a closer look at a wind farm — 10 mighty turbines spinning in the Kattegat strait — that has helped make Samso a symbol for a greener future, one powered entirely by renewable energy.

Among them was Marian Chioffi, the bookkeeper at the electric company in Monhegan, Me., whose population of about 60 swells to include hundreds of residents and thousands of tourists in the summer. They — along with generations of artists like Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent and Jamie Wyeth — have been drawn by the island’s lost-in-time charm and picturesque setting in the Gulf of Maine.

Monhegan faces challenges as stark as its beauty. Foremost among them — and the spur for the journey to Denmark — is dependence on expensive, dirty fuels for heating and electricity. Even with the recent fall in oil prices, Monhegan residents pay among the highest power rates in the nation — almost six times the national average — and the electric company, locally owned and operated, struggles to keep the lights on.

Twenty years ago, Samso faced similar problems. Its farming and fishing industries were in decline, and its electricity and heating costs, mostly from diesel and coal, were rising. Its young people were leaving the island to attend high school and choosing not to return.

But in 1997, the island began a long-term transformation. It won a government-sponsored contest to create a model community for renewable energy and, through a combination of wind and solar (for electricity) and geothermal and plant-based energy (for heating), the island reached green energy independence in 2005. That means Samso actually generates more power from renewable sources than it consumes over all. Attached by a power cable to the mainland 11 miles away, the island sells its excess electricity to the national utility, bringing income to the hundreds of residents who own shares in the island’s wind farms, both on land and at sea.

Samso has attracted global attention for its accomplishments. Soren Hermansen, 55, and his wife, Malene Lunden, 49, worked for years to develop the program on the island and now have created an institute, theSamso Energy Academy, to spread their story and methods to international visitors.

The Maine islanders, along with students from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, had traveled to Samso to attend the academy and hear the Danes’ advice. If all went well, each islander would go home with a team of students dedicated to solving an energy problem using ideas borrowed from Samso.

Beyond that, the planners hoped, new Maine island projects could become templates for broader adoption of renewable energy. Because of their particular geography, islands often lack the resources and infrastructures to meet their own needs. Fuel, like other necessities, is often imported — sometimes with great difficulty — and electric grids, when they even exist, are often underdeveloped or out of date, all of which leads to higher prices and less reliable service. With residents open to cheaper and better alternatives, islands are becoming seedbeds of innovation, living labs in which to test and refine technologies and approaches that are too new or expensive to establish on a mainland. And their small size makes the systems easier to manage and analyze.

Denmark is also studying the use of renewables on Bornholm, an even more remote island than Samso, in the Baltic Sea, said Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the country’s minister of climate, energy and building. The Carbon War Room, the nonprofit organization started by the Virgin Group mogul Richard Branson, and NRG Energy, an independent power producer, are experimenting with solar, wind and geothermal sources to replace diesel in the Caribbean. And the Alaska Energy Authority has awarded several renewable energy innovation grants to offshore communities.

Suzanne MacDonald, the community energy director at the Island Institute in Rockland, which is helping oversee the Mainers’ Denmark program, argues that such projects can be useful test cases. But, she added, they work only in places where people want to use the technologies and can organize and lead the effort.

“We can’t just put steel in the ground and technology on the grid,” she said, “unless people are a part of the process.”

For Ms. Chioffi, seeing how the people of Samso had come to accept new technologies had particular significance. In 2009, the State of Maine designated a patch of ocean off Monhegan’s coast that is part of the state’s lobstering grounds as a test site to study renewable energy development, and plans were finally moving ahead for a long-term, public-private demonstration project that would place two turbines there. There are not yet any full-scale offshore wind farms in the United States — projects like Cape Wind near Nantucket have been delayed by legal and financial challenges — so the Mainers were eager for a rare chance to see one up close.

It was still dark as the group boarded the Ocean Cat, a former whale-watching boat, outfitted with a kitchen, black leather seating and a large television screen. Willy Mortensen, the captain, started making coffee and chatting with the visitors. He and his mate are on call to ferry repairmen to the wind farm, which starts about 2.2 miles from Samso’s coast. That’s what they were doing on that damp morning, with the Mainers tagging along.

The repair crew often works for 12 hours on a visit, so the captain passes the time watching episodes of “Deadliest Catch.” Mr. Mortensen said: “There’s a lot of trouble with the turbines. You’re repairing and repairing and repairing. By the time you get one fixed, the next one doesn’t work.”

Indeed, when Mr. Mortensen nudged the bow of the boat through the heaving waters to settle near turbine No. 6, another stood idle, victim of a cracked bearing that would require a special crane boat to fix. As the workmen put on harnesses and climbed off the bucking deck to a small platform encircling the steel tower, Ms. Chioffi craned her neck to look at the machine looming overhead, its long white blades temporarily stilled in the cold, gray morning air.

“Does seeing these give you more of a sense of the reality?” asked Sam Saltonstall, a retired Maine schoolteacher who now lives on Peaks Island, near Portland.

“Yeah,” she said softly, stunned by how big they were. “But the ones they’re talking about putting up are twice as high as that.”

Coffee Diplomacy

One sunny afternoon during their weekslong stay on Samso, the five Maine islanders and about 15 students rode on bikes with Mr. Hermansen to an open field. Huge, plastic-encased bales of hay sat alongside a large plot of a dense, tufted plant called elephant grass. On the island, many private houses and public buildings connect to central heating plants established as part of the energy project. The heating plants burn hay to heat water, which then circulates through underground pipes to radiators and heat exchangers for warmth and hot water. But the plant near the academy is experimenting with elephant grass as a new source of biomass, Mr. Hermansen told the group, because it grows faster and has a higher energy content than hay.

“We are still looking for the elephants,” Mr. Hermansen joked of the dense field.

Part of the appeal of using the biomass is that even with low oil prices it is cheap — about one-eighth the cost of oil, which is heavily taxed in Denmark, he said. But as with some of the other renewable technologies in use on Samso, the system is not so easily replicated elsewhere. The island has open, fertile land and ground soft enough to bury the hot-water pipes. Maine’s flinty landscapes are not so accommodating. Mr. Hermansen and Ms. Lunden acknowledge as much, but argue that specific natural resources and technologies are irrelevant to developing a green community without an appeal to people’s direct and practical self-interest.

“I’m not on a mission of saving the polar bears in the Arctic or changing the climate — I am on a mission of saying it is not good for us to be depending on imported fossil fuels,” Mr. Hermansen said. “It’s better to be in control and produce your own energy, and you can do that with green technology. So it’s actually more of a practical thing, like a farmer getting a new combine harvester.”

Mr. Hermansen and his wife were the project’s catalyzing figures. Mr. Hermansen, who helped prepare the island’s winning proposal, grew up on a farm on Samso, but left at age 15 to attend high school on the mainland. He spent 10 years away, working on fishing boats in Norway, farming in New Zealand and teaching in a democracy-building project in Lithuania. He moved back to the island and took over his father’s farm for a time, meeting Ms. Lunden, a photographer with a background in group dynamics and leadership training, there in 1984.

When the energy project came along, Mr. Hermansen was the obvious candidate to run it. “He can talk to everybody,” said Charlotte Villadsen, who runs a campground near the energy academy. “He’s very good at analyzing, ‘How should I present it to this group, and how should I present it to that group.’ ” Plumbers were worried about losing business if people got rid of their oil burners; Mr. Hermansen took them out for beers, Ms. Villadsen said and explained that if they learned how to install and service the new heat pumps they could move into that business. Much of the 44-square-mile island is devoted to agriculture, and to the farmers he pointed out that selling hay to the collective heating plants would provide a new income stream. Now one-quarter of Samso’s hay goes to heating.

While the islanders — there are 3,800 of them — had a strong tradition of collaboration developed over centuries of collective farming practices, it was nonetheless tough to get everyone behind all the new green projects. One breakthrough was a government energy-efficiency program that served as an entry to selling the whole enterprise, Mr. Hermansen said. The program gave grants for updating old houses; the couple approached the older residents who often owned the eligible properties, meeting over coffee and cookies in their homes to help them figure out how to qualify for the money.

“I drank so much coffee I was practically galvanized inside,” Mr. Hermansen said, laughing. But, once on board, those residents served as ambassadors for the larger self-sustaining green energy plan, spreading the word to their children and grandchildren.

Now, it seems, people from all across the island are participating. Many residents who live too far from the biomass heating plants have their own sustainable sources of warmth, including in-ground heat pumps and heavily insulated wood stoves that look almost like pizza ovens. At the municipal government headquarters, a large solar array on a canopy over the parking lot feeds the building as well as charging stations for a fleet of city-owned electric Citroëns. Countryside rooftops sparkle with solar panels, for which residents receive incentives; some have smart appliances that allow them to time washing clothes and dishes to the hours of cheapest power to cut their bills further.

Even the golf club is part of the program: Members carry hand weeders on the links and pry up errant plants, reducing the need for herbicides, and sheep graze to keep tall grasses in check. Since the members can also arrange to buy the meat, said Jesper Roug Kristensen, a golf club member who works at the energy academy, “you can eat the golf course.”

It has taken $80 million in investment, about 20 percent from government subsidies, to turn the island into a renewable-energy community, Mr. Hermansen estimates. But in the end, the island’s accomplishments seem to stem not so much from government policies and subsidies as from Mr. Hermansen’s ability to show people how the changes could benefit them. The wind turbines, for instance, faced opposition from residents who said the modern machines would ruin the charm of their villages. So the planners moved some turbines from the most sensitive areas, but also added to their appeal by allowing locals to buy shares in the projects.

Ole Kaempe, a teacher who can see the turbine he and his wife invested in from between the rows of wine grapes near his farmhouse, said that the income made the low mechanical hum sound better. “Otherwise it would be noise,” he said, “but now, it’s beautiful music.”

An Imperfect Model

Samso’s energy independence suggests that Denmark’s aggressive goal of becoming fossil-fuel free by 2050 is feasible, said Mr. Petersen, the energy minister. “We need front-runners,” he said, “and they are just that.” The country as a whole is well on its way: Last year, Denmark drew almost 40 percent of its electricity from wind, up from 33 percent the year before. Over 60 percent of Danish houses get their heat from central sources, like Samso’s, that are already using renewables or can be easily converted, Mr. Petersen said. The hardest challenge, he said, is ridding its transport system of fossil fuels, so he is looking to Samso for ideas. “I hope that they can crack that nut first.”


To that end, the island is promoting the use of electric vehicles and plans to test using gas from decomposing waste as fuel for a new ferry set to arrive next month. Yet while the national government is expecting useful results from Samso’s efforts, there are signs that its consensus and momentum could flag. Mr. Hermansen, who says he is on the road about 100 days a year promoting the island’s story, is beginning to talk of doing other things. The academy is working with islands in Europe and Japan that are adapting Samso’s approaches, and he mused that he might shift more of his time to creating partnerships like those.

And although many residents express pride in the island’s green image, others point to shortcomings. It still relies on fossil fuels when the wind does not blow or the heating plants break down. Only 10 to 15 percent of the population has invested in the wind farm production, and electricity bills have stayed high, in part because of Danish tax and energy policies.

Building support for the projects based on financial self-interest can have a downside when the economics shift. At an evening reception at the end of the Mainers’ program, Jorgen Tranberg, a farmer who is chairman of the consortium that manages the offshore turbines, said that his investments had fizzled because of falling prices for wind power and lower-than-expected output.

Samso’s wind farms produce about 105,000 megawatt-hours of electricity each year, of which roughly 80,000 are exported. Although the island earned a set rate for the first 10 years of production, it now gets a market rate that is lower in part because developers in Denmark and throughout the region have built so many wind turbines, cutting Samso’s revenue from approximately $6.4 million a year to about $3.8 million.

That may be good for Denmark, but not so good for Samso’s investors.

“In 10 years I don’t think there will be wind turbines on Samso,” Mr. Tranberg said. The aging equipment will need replacement one day, and new models are becoming ever larger as the wind industry seeks to lower costs by maximizing power production. It was so difficult to overcome concerns about noise and intruding on a bucolic landscape with the smaller turbines, Mr. Tranberg said, that he did not believe Samsingers would approve the bigger ones.

As the guests celebrated over hors d’oeuvres and wine, Mr. Tranberg added that he had been spending too much of his time on turbine repairs and renegotiating an unsatisfactory service arrangement. “The last three months it’s three emails a week with bad things about the turbines,” he said. Comparing that experience with the more cheerful message the Mainers were learning at the academy, he added: “That’s another world than Soren and Malene here.”

Bringing Samso Home

Before the event that last night at the academy, Mr. Hermansen handed large sheets of paper for the Maine islanders and students to list their lingering questions and concerns. The Americans were skeptical that they could replicate the Samso experience back home, where clean-energy policies and subsidies are neither as consistent nor as strong as in Denmark. “How do we transfer success under the Danish regulatory structure to projects in the U.S.?” read one. Another wondered, “How to translate-encourage Danish energy conservation pragmatism/culture to American ‘comfort’ culture.”

In the months since, the islanders and their student partners have started to answer those questions in different ways, still convinced that conservation and renewables are better energy solutions than fossil fuels, despite the falling price of oil.

On Peaks Island, which has more than 900 year-round residents, Mr. Saltonstall is working on a plan to decrease dependence on heating oil and propane and increase energy efficiency in residences and at the elementary school, which spent roughly $800 per student on fuel last year.

On Vinalhaven, a Maine island with a year-round population of almost 1,200, Patrick Trainor, a retired math teacher, and his partners are designing a solar field to complement an existing small land-based wind farm. The three turbines are a source of great pride to many island residents — though they are also the subject of a lawsuit — and Mr. Trainor is talking of forming an energy academy there.

On tiny Monhegan, the year-round residents are focused on Maine Aqua Ventus, a wind project with public and private financing that may arrive near their shores whether they want it or not. Conceived as a demonstration of the potential for offshore wind, it would put two enormous turbines — 300-foot towers atop 30-foot platforms, as opposed to the roughly 200-foot machines near Samso — in a pristine section of the Atlantic Ocean. Some residents say they like the idea of potential benefits of the farm, including better broadband service and access to central Maine’s grid, which would relieve them of the burden of running and maintaining their own system. But they also worry that it could harm tourism and lobstering, as well as birds and marine life.

Ms. Chioffi’s project is intended to help Monhegan work through those questions by borrowing engagement strategies from Mr. Hermansen and Ms. Lunden. So far, the approach is having some effect. When the Danish couple visited Monhegan in October, most island residents showed up for a discussion, and were still talking about it along the dirt roads the next day.

For Ms. Chioffi, that alone is a kind of success and, she hopes, the beginning of a process that could finally help her island inch closer to something like Samso. Seeing the offshore farm in Denmark allayed some worries — a bird adjusted its flight path that morning to avoid the spinning blades — but made clear just how big the turbines would be. But even if Monhegan is not the best place for the Aqua Ventus wind farm, she said, it has already had one benefit: “The thing that it did for Monhegan was it got people talking about renewable energy again.”

Correction: January 25, 2015 


An article last Sunday about how the Danish island Samso achieved renewable energy independence misstated the amount of electricity produced and exported by Samso’s wind farms. They produce 105,000 megawatt-hours, not 105, and export 80,000 megawatt-hours, not 80.


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