Keywords: renewable energy region, 100% renewable energy self sufficiency region, Samsoe, renewable energy in Samsø.
Samsø is a Danish island located in the North Sea bay of Kattegat (Figure 1), between the mainland of Jutland and the island of Zealand, 15 km from the Jutland Peninsula. Samsø is a small island and community. The community is called "Samsingers". The total area is around 114 km2 and the population is about 4,300 inhabitants (2009). Its main activities include farming, tourism, and - lately - renewable energy.
Figure 1. Samsø Island in Denmark
Background of Renewable Energy Development
In the Danish Action Plan, Energy 21 1996, it was decided that the government should work on the designation of a local area which should change its supply of energy to local RE sources. As a result of this commitment, the government held a competition to become a model of renewable energy community. Engineer Ole Johnsson, from the mainland town of Aarhus, became fascinated by the competition and saw Samso as the ideal place to realize this energy self-sufficiency dream. After studying the island's annual wind-speed and sunshine-hour records, he calculated how much energy the island could produce from wind turbines and other alternative sources and concluded it was possible to beat conventional sources. He sent the plan (Figure 2) to Copenhagen and it won. In November 1997, Samsø was chosen among five competing islands, to be powered and fuelled by renewable energy only - including the transport sector- within the next decade. Being chosen as a renewable Energy Island does not mean that the energy agency/Government decides and pays everything. Without the contribution of the population, there will be no RE island.
In 1997, this island was entirely dependent on oil and coal which were imported from the mainland. Since 2003, Samsø has been self-sufficient in energy. Now, Samsø has achieved 140% self-sufficiency of renewable energy. 11 onshore wind turbines are able to fulfill 100% the island's electricity demand. 70% of their heating demand is obtained from solar power and biomass. The rest is gained through imported petroleum, which is compensated by 10 offshore wind turbines.
Renewable Energy Island Project
Renewable energy island is an individual project, but during 1998-2002 it was also a part of the EC's ALTENER program that encouraged the development and expansion of an already-viable market for renewable energy sources. Subsidies were received from ALTENER program. The most important means to achieve were:
- Cuts in consumption and increased efficiency in terms of heat, electricity and transport by the introduction of up to date energy technologies and adjusting people´s behavior patterns.
- Expansion of the district heating supply systems combined with utilization of local bio-mass resources.
- Expansion of individual heating systems using heat pumps, solar heating, biomass-plants and other means.
- Construction of land-based and offshore wind power plants to cover electricity production.
- Gradual conversion of the transport sector from petrol and oil power to electrical power, and later on hydrogen.
The aim of the RE island project was to convert all of Samsø’s energy supply to 100% renewable energy within 10 years.
Danish Energy Agency selected Samsoe to become “Renewable Energy Island” with the purpose over few years to demonstrate that an integrated energy planning based on renewable energy source could be implemented within a limited geographic area.
The target set for project Samsø Renewable Energy Island was a 100% share of renewable energy in ten years.
Focus of the Program
- Starting point: the program started in 1997, when Samsø won a renewable-energy contest, sponsored by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy, and was named “Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island”.
- First condition: Samsø received basically no benefits from the government: no prize money, no tax breaks, and not even government assistance. Then some government money was found to fund a single staff position in the program. Søren Hermansen became the first employee and he tried to get the program really going.
- The start: the Samsingers were conservative and hesitating, and waited for the neighbors to do the first move. Hermansen participated the local meetings and brought up the renewable energy project. At the same time he tried to get the support of the island’s opinion leaders.
- The energy plan: the project used a rough timetable that was included in the energy plan made by PlanEnergi. It is an independent consultancy firm specializing in renewable energy, environment, sustainable systems, energy planning and technology transfer. The original master plan included detailed plans and calculations. These plans changed along the way, when local residents took part in the planning processes.
- Budget: at first, financial resources came primarily from Danish Energy Agency, Århus Regional Authority and Samsø Municipality. But most of the investments of the project have come from local residents.
- Target group: all the residents of Samsø island. The project tried to reach the Samsingers in many roles as citizens, consumers, household owners and property owners.
Design of the Program
- Knowledge and ideas informed the design of the program: the project was based on a vision that the project should be approached by a bottom-up method by creating citizen involvement right from the start. It was a rather loosely organized project, where the ideas and methods evolved along the way.
- Research conducted on target group: the project was based on strong local grass-root knowledge of the people and conditions in Samsø.
- Project initiator: the aim was to get the support of the island’s opinion leaders. When more and more people got involved and were active, that prompted others to follow.
- Campaigns: to give knowledge and practical abilities to save energy and get acquainted with renewable energy technology. It included education and certification of local entrepreneurs, house calls by energy advisors, and energy saving campaigns.
- Design of the project: the program was designed so that the target group would also have other benefits than energy savings as a result of their behavioral change. It also relied on the social benefits that it would create when the Samsingers would work together to contribute to renewable island project.
- The intervention: started after Samsø had won the national renewable energy competition.
- Methods to get people involved in the project (participation): invited citizens to participate in work groups for the planning and development work, involved in choosing the technologies to be used in the project, (later) made financial investments to these technologies. The main purpose of this method was to create local people’s “ownership” of the developed solutions.
- Social pressure: the project aimed to use social pressure generated by a small community to promote the program, and succeeded in that.
- Communication plan: local media have been used extensively to inform about and mobilize participation in different activities, and to give status reports about the progress of the project. Information about the project was also presented in the numerous meetings during the project.
Process of the Program
- Interaction between the different participants: a large network of different actors evolved to support the project; RE island project personnel, private citizens of Samsø, Samsø municipality, Danish Government, and local and external business.
- Reaction of the project manager to issues/problems: if the original plan encountered problems, they usually tried to solve it another way. If the original plan didn’t work at all, they abandoned it.
- Feedback system: there wasn’t really a system of feedback in the project. The participation to these projects was voluntary, so perhaps it could be seen as a form of feedback, if people didn’t take part.
- 1997: Samsø Energy- and Environmental Agency was established.
- 1998: Samsø Energy Company was established.
- 2000: 11 onshore wind turbines were erected in three areas across the island.
- 2003: 10 offshore wind turbines were operated in the south of Samsø.
- 2004: the fourth new heating plants based on renewable sources was opened and 6 villages were supplied with district heating based on renewable sources.
- 2005: reached a 100% renewable electricity and 70% renewable heating.
- 2007: Samsø Energy Academy was opened.
Renewable Energy in Samsø Island
21 Wind Turbines
The 21 wind turbines are divided in two different application, onshore and offshore. 11 onshore wind turbines (Figure 2) has a total height of 77 m and located in three areas across the island. Each turbine has a power of 1 MW and generates electricity for 630 standard households. All together 11 turbines produce electricity more than the island's total consumption of electricity. The turbines are connected to the electricity grid in Jutland via transformer stations in the city of Vadstrup. They transmit electricity when there are excess of electricity production. The total electricity production of 11 wind turbines in average is around 28,000 MWh/year. 10 offshore wind turbines (Figure 3) are located in the south of Samsø. Each of them has a power more than 2 MW. It is used to offset the CO2 footprint of the transportation sector of the island, including the ferries.
Figure 2. Onshore wind turbines
Onshore wind turbines:
- Tanderup: three turbines, the annual production is around 7,600 MWh.
- Permelile: three turbines, the annual production is around 7,600 MWh.
- Brundby: five turbines, the production is around 12,700 MW/year.
Figure 3. Offshore wind turbines
Four District Heating Plants
- The district heating plant in Nordby/Mårup: receives heat from 2500 m2 solar panels (Figure 4) and a 900 kW wood chip-fired boiler (Figure 5). The plant is the only heating plant of its kind based on solar panels and a wood chip-fired boiler.
Figure 5. Wood Fires
- Tranebjerg district heating: the plant was established in 1993 and was the first district heating plant on Samsø. A total of 263 private homes, commercial enterprises, housing associations and institutions are connected to the district heating network. The straw boiler in the plant has an output of 3MW and the total heating consumption is around 9,500MWh/year.
- Ballen/Brundby district heating: the plant fires straw (Figure 6) and is the only which is 100% owned by its users. It supplies 232 consumers in Ballen and Brundby and is located between these two towns. A group of inhabitants from the two towns and Samsø energy company jointly own the district heating plant.
Figure 6. Søren Hermansen in front of the Stacks of half-ton Hay Bales 
- The district heating plant in Onsbjerg: is a straw-fired district heating plant with 76 households and institutions connected. It is a local private limited company.
Privately owned Plants for Geothermal Heating, Solar Heating, and Pellet Boilers
An estimated 300 households in Samsø’s have invested in renewable heating systems. Some have had solar panels installed on their roof (Figure 7) which provide hot water and serve as supplementary heating. Others have replaced their old oil boiler with a pellet boiler, a masonry stove or another biomass-fired boiler. Finally, some have had the still more popular heat pumps installed, either for geothermal heating or in the form of an air-to-air heat pump.
Figure 7. Solar on the Roof
Samsø Energy Academy
Samsø Energy Academy (Figure 8) officially opened in May 2007 in Ballen. The building is equipped with south-facing solar panels. The functions are:
- It is a community hall for energy concerns, a meeting place for energy and local development.
- The Energy Academy houses the renewable energy organizations of Samsø Energy Agency, Energy Service Denmark and Samsø Energy and Environment office.
- It also provides RE education and communication by mediating workshops, conferences and exhibitions.
- It is a basis for research.
- It gives service of renewable energy such as gives advice to Samsø islanders on insulation (Figure 9) and replacement of oil boilers.
Figure 8. The Energy Academy
Figure 9. Insulation of the Samsø's House
Samsø Energy- and Environmental Agency
It was established to promote the Renewable Energy Island project and to counsel the citizens who wanted to establish their own renewable energy projects. The partners were Danish Energy Agency, Århus Regional Authority, Samsø Municipality, Samsø Business Forum, Samsø Farmers Association and Danish Ministry of Energy.
Samsø Energy Company
It was founded to be responsible for the overall coordinating of many different energy supply projects; and to implement Renewable Energy projects, especially wind turbine and district heating projects. Together with Samsø Energy- and Environmental Office they organized campaigns and meetings.
The Energy Academy is running an experiment (Figure 10) to turn wind electricity produced at night, when prices are low, into hydrogen via an electrolyzer (in the shed here) to be turned back into electricity, when prices are higher. It is a stored supply to fully when Samsø off of electricity produced by burning fossil fuels elsewhere in Denmark.
Figure 10. Experiment on Hydrogen
Finance of the Project
Total finance for the project were 53.3 million EUR investments and 4.0 million EUR public subsidies. The project also gained economic savings and profits to those who participated.
Financial Resources and Partners
- Financial resources: Danish Energy Agency, Aarhus Regional Authority, Samsø Municipality, Samsø Energy- and Environmental Agency.
- Other partners: Samsø Business Forum, Samsø Farmer's Association, Samsø Energy Company, Danish Ministry of Energy.
- Samsø Energy Academy.
Investment Share of the Project
- 11 onshore wind turbines: total investment was DKK 66 million. Nine of the wind turbines are owned by local farmers. The remaining are owned by a local wind turbine association. These turbines are divided into about 5,400 shares, owned by 450 people.
- 10 offshore wind turbines: the municipality of Samsø has invested DKK 25 million in the procurement of the five offshore wind turbines.
- Ballen/Brundby district heating: the Danish Energy Agency has provided a DKK 2.5-million subsidy for construction of the plant.
- Samsø Energy Academy: profits from electricity production of the five offshore wind turbines owned by Samsø municipality have led to a subsidy of DKK 5 million.
A main lesson learned is the bottom-up approach with citizens’ involvement in any step right from the beginning. One evident example is the implementing of new land based windmills, where often end up with the protest like “not in my back yard” from private land owners. Here the initiative to a new windmill came from local involved land owners – and one of first things were to make a written agreement allowing the windmill to be located here – before further planning continued. And then again local people were involved later on in managing and operating the energy plants.
Success and Failure of the Project
Overall, the renewable energy island project was almost completely successful, because it fulfilled most of the goals that were set.
Success of the Project were:
- 100% self-sufficiency with renewable energy using local resources has been achieved in 8 years, two years ahead of time.
- Three new district heating plants were built, 70% of the total heat production is now produced by renewable energy.
- New wind turbines were established: 10 offshore and 11 onshore.
- Heat consumption aimed at 25% reduction, but instead ended up with 10% increase.
- Savings in electricity consumption aimed at 15% reduction, but achieved only 3-4%.
- The transportation sector aimed to reduce the energy consumption of transportation by 5-10%, but instead it increased by 5%.
- The behavioral changes were not successful. The achievements in energy savings and conservation were minimal, despite of the several campaigns aimed to reduce the energy consumption.
- It might be a consequences of the success in other field. When people get better insulation, they heat their home as much as used, and get a warmer home.
- The trend to build larger houses increases heat consumption.
- When people save money in using local electricity and heating sources, they buy more electric appliances that use energy.
- It could be that people felt that they deserved a “reward” after all the hard work they did for the project.
- It could also be that the positive social dynamics that worked in favor of building RE production units did not work in the field of energy savings.
Success and Failure Factors
- Bottom-up approach in any steps from creating ideas and planning to implementing and operating.
- Land-owner written agreements regarding possible location of energy plants/installations etc.
- Creating of local citizens’ ownership of project initiatives as well as of final solutions.
- Commitment from local, regional and national energy authorities.
- Experiences and expertise available from energy authorities and research institutions.
- Funding support.
- The economic benefits of the program: It has brought investments, more tourism to island, and thus generated jobs; The residents are shareholders in the wind turbines and are gaining profits from it; The price of heating energy has decreased after the early investments have paid off.
- Local participation: the islanders have participated in the project in many levels.
- Use of existing networks and organizations: the project was based on networks and communities that already existed.
- No free riders: many or all were taking apart.
Keys of Success
Søren Hermansen, the Director of the Samsø Energy Academy, gave a view of the keys success of any significant renewable energy project are community involvement and local ownership.
The project results were communicated both to the local populace and the world at large. The success of the project can also be seen in growing interest of renewable energy tourism. Some of the changes brought by the RE island project have been sustainable and durable. Even though the project has achieved its main goals, the renewable energy is going to be an important element in Samsø.
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