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Watching Wind Energy Work in Denmark

By Roy L Hales

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As Carsten Vittrup, of Energnet DK,  said, “no other countries have as large a wind power capacity in proportion to the size of the electricity consumption, as we do in Denmark.” Or to paraphrase Jack Nicholsen, “this is as good as it gets.” If you want to know how well wind technology works, look at Denmark.

I have developed several reservations about this technology:

  • I find Jim Wiegand’s research, on how wind turbines are wreaking far more raptor casualties than is being acknowledged, conclusive.
  • The manner in which wind farms are being forced upon the residents of East County  and Ocotillo, in California, is morally offensive.
  • Furthermore, the Ocotillo Wind Farm does not really work! Jim Pelley has been documenting the lack of wind since the project went online. Though his report has not arrived yet this morning, I suspect it will be yet another video of wind turbines that are not moving and wind speeds of somewhere between 0 and 4 mph. You can see hundreds of his videos – 373 at last count – at the youtube site Save Ocotillo: https://www.youtube.com/user/SaveOcotillo
  • Though I have heard a few stories about wind farms that work, there are even more about those that do not.

Two weeks ago I found an online register of Denmark’s power. You can go there by clicking on this link:  http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html

Screen shot from http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html
Screen shot from http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html

After 16 months of reports from a wind farm that usually does not have enough wind to turn the blades (Ocotillo) – I found this exciting. This is what I wrote on April 13 & 14: The figures for energy being produced by wind turbines (3407 MW) and electricity consumption (3,608 MW) in the graph to the left .  At the moment the wind turbines are producing a little more than 94% of the energy being used. When I first saw this site, last night, the turbines were producing between 96 and 97%. Earlier this morning, it was close to 100%.

Googling the site, I came across a report from last fall that shows the Danes frequently produce +90% of their energy demand.

Screen shot from http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html
Screen shot from http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html

As I am typing this, the wind picked up and those turbines are now producing 99.7% of the energy Denmark needs.

I love the simplicity of this system! Rather than waste our time with the hypothetical capacity that turbines seldom reach, the Danes show you how much is being produced and consumed at any given moment.

The graph at the top of this page is much more complex because Denmark imports a fixed amount of energy from Germany and exports surplus energy to Norway and Sweden.

In addition to wind turbines, the Danes have Central power stations and Local CHP stations.

At the moment they are exporting 813 MW. The wind has picked up a little and if consumption had not increased even more, they would now be at +100%. Instead, they are meeting 93.38% of the amount domestically consumed.

I have heard of wind farms that work, but seeing really is believing.

Screen shot from http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html
Screen shot from http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html

I do not know how long these turbines will continue to produce this amount of energy, but Denmark did not derive 55% of its energy over the course of a month prior to December.

Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 6.59.35 AMTwo weeks have passed and I decided to take another peek. It is 6:59 am Pacific Time on April 27, 2014. Now the turbines are only producing 37.21% of the amount consumed. That’s quite a drop from the +90% figures I was recently looking at. As you can see, at the left, the word “eksport” has been replaced by “import.”

According to the chart below, wind energy only supplied 33.2% of the nation’s energy in 2013, but that number rose to 54.8% in December.

Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 6.07.44 AM
http://www.energinet.dk/EN/El/Nyheder/Sider/2013-var-et-rekordaar-for-dansk-vindkraft.aspx

Carsten Vittrup, of Energnet DK, wrote that 2013 was less windy than average, but production is up because of the installation of facilities like the large-scale offshore wind farm at Anholt. These numbers hold a promise for the year ahead, the Danes might even break the 40% mark for annual production. Their goal is to reach +50% a year by 2020.

Denmark’s system works because it has a ready supply of energy to import, when the wind is not strong enough, and neighbours ready to receive the energy when there is a surplus. The intermittent nature of wind energy makes this necessary.

(A similar situation, in Ontario, is said to be disastrous because the Americans refuse to pay for all the energy being dumped on them. So  Ontario often pays to produce energy it gives away. )

This system would appear to require a large outlay of cash to set up,  which raises the question of it being an economically feasible model for the world to follow.

North Americans should not be building wind farms in areas where they are not economically feasible. When Patrick Jenevein got out of the wind business, he said the industry was being driven by politics rather than economic:

“Wind energy will make marginal—not revolutionary—contributions. The industry’s success in Texas (where my company is based, and which is the nation’s largest and cheapest producer of wind power) suggests that wind farms do make sense in relatively windy areas where electricity shortages occur. But policy matters. California, which isn’t located in the “wind belt,” is America’s second-largest wind-energy producer but also its costliest. The state’s high costs are partly due to “aggressive renewable energy policies . . . that give developers a strong negotiating position…”

Jenevein believes that US government subsidies should be eliminated so that the industry will focus “less on working the political system and more on research and development.”

I have no interest in perpetuating a system that creates, and then refuses to acknowledge, a fiasco like the Ocotillo Wind Farm.

The next question is whether it is environmentally friendly?

Assuming that every other question can be answered, we should not be eradicating raptors. If the wind sector cannot deal with this problem, we should be looking at alternative technologies like solar. That applies to Denmark as well as North America.

(Image at top of page: Screen shot from http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html)

6 thoughts on “Watching Wind Energy Work in Denmark”

  1. Roy, I had heard that wind works in Denmark because it is backed up by hydro. Is that true? If so, how does that figure in to the numbers they put up?

    As for a wind installation that works, there is one on the eastern slopes of the Cascades on 9,000 acres of land. The turbines are sited in the valley and were sited so as not to disrupt the view of area people who did not want their view disrupted. There are few trees so it is neither a stopover habitat nor a major migration pathway. The wind is plentiful. Turbines are shut down during foggy/icey conditions and no one is allowed in the fields because it is dangerous. Bird mortality last year was counted at 247 with weekly searches but mortality is estimated to be 10-15% higher because 1) predators 2) can’t find bodies in wheat fields. The array was planned by a biologist who was sensitive to her neighbors but who wanted to capture the wind resource to generate clean energy. This project was built in the 90’s, pre-Wall Street/multi-national corporation involvement. I can ask what the wind production is and am certain we would get actual production numbers instead of capacity. The owner is proud of her turbine array and her contribution and believes that that land was uniquely well suited for this purpose but densely installation in densely populated or highly sensitive/critical habitat and migratory flyways is irresponsible.

    1. Hi Mary:
      Re: Production: There are a lot of unknowns in this picture, including how long the windmills produce at this rate. And when I said they are producing +90% of the country’s domestic needs, that dos not include energy exports to Sweden & Norway. I suspect the reason for the mix of imported, conventional & wind energy is it assures their needs are covered and allows them to profit from the surplus.

      I have no idea what the bird mortality is, but suspect it will be as bad as everywhere else.

  2. The 97-99 % percent is momentary and does not take into account the many other forms of energy needed for the people of Denmark. In other words it is not really 100 percent or for that matter even close. When looking at all energy sources I would imagine wind energy production is really about 5-8 percent.

    Denmark has about 40% more population than the San Diego area. It would take 2000 of the wind turbines at Ocotillo under the same windy conditions to produce equal amounts of energy. But since the wind is not nearly as good, the number of turbines needed would have to be at least 6000.

    Imagine the blight and the destruction that would take place if 4500 of these things were installed in San Diego County. Imagine what California would look like with 55,000 of these huge turbines.

    1. Go look at the chart Jim. That +90% is based on two figures, windmill output and domestic consumption. I did not include conventional energy sources, but you will see figures there, or the energy imports or exports. I just checked right now and calculated those turbines are producing +96%.

      I do not know how many months a year they will keep producing at +90%, but it looks like the technology “works” in Denmark.

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