Danish wind power – a personal view

Denmark (population c. 5.4 million) is a leading pioneer in renewable energy. Since 1985 it has set up about 3,100 MW of wind capacity. Of this 420 MW are sited offshore (Nielsen, 2004), and more is planned for the near future (Bendtsen and Hedegaard, 2004). Over the same period many small gas- or bio-fuelled CHP plants were deployed, primarily for local district heating but also to produce electricity. Interest in solar power is also considerable.


For many, the proliferation of wind turbines in Western Denmark has seriously detracted from the former charm and beauty of its natural land and seascapes, and has had a detrimental impact on human and wildlife habitats. A recent statement from Government Ministers can be interpreted to confirm this (Bendtsen & Hedegaard, 2004).

In its present form, Danish wind power still relies heavily on public subsidies. Some have argued that Denmark’s investment in renewable energy could have been far better spent improving the environment by less obtrusive and more effective means - for example, by funding radiator valves for Eastern European countries (Abilgaard, 2001). The current production of renewable energy in Western Denmark corresponds numerically to 21% of local demand, but most of this power has to be disposed of in neighbouring countries at considerable cost to the Danish electricity consumer.

The output of wind power has little if any beneficial effect on carbon emissions, because its unpredictable pattern of production can destabilise the grid unless supported by readily accessible fossil-fuelled backup and the option to displace ‘green’ (mainly hydro or nuclear electricity) or conventional power in neighbouring countries.

With wind conditions similar to those of the UK, annual load factors for Western Denmark’s carpet of wind turbines (20-24%) sound a warning. Unless much greater and sustained production can somehow be achieved under UK conditions, consumers and investors will not enjoy the technical and economic benefits suggested by current efficiency predictions.

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SEP 22 2004
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