Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Island in the Wind goes Climate Positive

Elizabeth Kolbert wrote a great (long) article in The New Yorker this month about the island of Samso in Denmark, called The Island in the Wind. Samso is Denmark's climate positive energy experiment; the island not only produces all of its own energy using renewable sources, but it produces enough excess energy to offset the entire population's use of hydrocarbons for driving cars and tractors, and then some. Samso generates about 10% more energy than it consumes, using mostly wind, but also biomass, biodeisel, and solar. I would highly recommend reading the whole article, but here are two excerpts if you don't have time:
This year, the world is expected to burn through some thirty-one billion barrels of oil, six billion tons of coal, and a hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The combustion of these fossil fuels will produce, in aggregate, some four hundred quadrillion B.T.U.s of energy. It will also yield around thirty billion tons of carbon dioxide. Next year, global consumption of fossil fuels is expected to grow by about two per cent, meaning that emissions will rise by more than half a billion tons, and the following year consumption is expected to grow by yet another two per cent.

“When we started, in 1997, nobody expected this to happen,” Hermansen told the group. “When we talked to local people, they said, Yes, come on, maybe in your dreams.” Each land-based turbine cost the equivalent of eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Each offshore turbine cost around three million dollars. Some of Samsø’s turbines were erected by a single investor, like Tranberg; others were purchased collectively. At least four hundred and fifty island residents own shares in the onshore turbines, and a roughly equal number own shares in those offshore. Shareholders, who also include many non-residents, receive annual dividend checks based on the prevailing price of electricity and how much their turbine has generated.

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