“Samsø is more than just an island,” says Søren Hermansen, CEO of Samsø Energy Academy, the organisation leading the island’s transition to a fully sustainable society, including breaking its reliance on fossil fuel for heating, transport and electricity in favour of an all-renewable energy supply. He describes Samsø as a “tool” and a “vision” before opting for the word “process”, insisting that the island’s projects and learning cannot simply be “copy and pasted” for implementation elsewhere.
The adventure started in 1997 when Samsø won a competition arranged by then energy minister Svend Auken to become Denmark’s renewable energy island. A masterplan was drawn up, indicating how the island could make the transition within the aegis of current legislation and using known technologies. “We looked at consumer patterns and the resources we had available, and asked what it was possible to change,” says Hermansen. The focus was on practical suggestions, such as how to replace one litre of oil with ten kilowatt hours of electricity, and on building a business case around which money could be borrowed from the bank to finance the change, he explains.
The first ten years were dedicated to energy production and moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Four district heating power stations running on straw-fired boilers were built, 11 on-shore wind turbines were erected as well as ten near-shore turbines and buildings were renovated to reduce their energy use. “From the beginning it was our ambition not just to switch production to renewables, but also to save energy,” says Hermansen. ...
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