Through engagement of the community and local ownership, the islanders managed to become energy independent with renewable energy.
Samsø is worth a detour and not just for its natural beauty. A few years ago we saw a Backlight documentary (VPRO Tegenlicht) which explained that this Danish island generates its own renewable energy. Its sustainable and self-reliance success story makes the island a source of inspiration for other communities. It also contributed to us choosing sustainability as the theme of our trip. Ever since we made that choice Samsø has been on the top of our list of places to visit.
And we are not alone. Each year thousands of visitors come to the island to learn more about how the island’s energy revolution. This international interest proves the power of the positive example. As such it inspired us in a second way. We too want to show that smart solutions exist and thereby inspire our followers to act in a sustainable manner.
Idyllic Island… with Wind Turbines!
Samsø is slightly smaller than the Dutch island of Texel and has about four thousand permanent residents. It is a popular Danish holiday destination, so in summer thousands of tourists sail there or take the ferry to enjoy the beaches, rolling countryside and picturesque villages. Tourism and agriculture are the main sources of income for the islanders. Yet they chose to place eleven wind turbines on land and another ten in the sea just south of the island. They provide the island’s electricity, but are not really a pretty sight. We wonder how the decision to allow wind turbines on the island came about.
The wind blows a lot around here, as we witness first-hand in the harbour. “BOOM” we hear inside when a Danish sailboat with a somewhat inexperienced skipper crashes into our side. Fortunately, Lucipara’s strong steel hull and rigging keep us from having any damage. The new neighbour is not quite as lucky; his rail is bent and bow light broken. He is still a bit in shock when we help him berth next to us and return the remains of his lamp. It is obvious why the islanders chose wind power to generate their own electricity, but how were they convinced to agree to wind turbines in their vacation paradise?
Decide and Benefit Together
Søren Hermansen and his son Mads explain it to us. Søren leads the Energy Academy, and Mads joins the team during summer. He has become an expert on the subject in his own right. With a small team of nine employees the Energy Academy hosts five thousand visitors a year who are interested in learning about the energy revolution that took place on the island. Among them the Dutch king and queen last year.