Samsø - The Sustainable Danish Island

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September 28th 2009
Published: September 28th 2009
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Samsø, a place to be studied in the modern world of renewable energy. The island has a negative carbon footprint which means they produce a surplus of clean energy which they sell back to the Danish mainland at a profit. They employ an elaborate system of wind turbines that are nearly all community owned or even privately owned (as opposed to corporate energy owned), heating stations which provide the heat for the island's homes in a carbon neutral way, and fields of solar energy panels.

We started off our trip by taking a regional train to the western coast of Zealand and riding a couple hour ferry across the sea to the tiny island of Samsø. On the ferry we were treated to a very delicious meal in the Panorama Lounge. With our delicious brisket we had pickled pumpkins...typical to eat with meat. Upon coming ashore, we walked across the island in the dark...very few street lights...and marveled at the gorgeous sky. So far from a big city, the sky was more brilliant than I'd ever witnessed it. I could see the Milky Way ring.

The next day, we started off by mounting bicycles and biking 10 kilometers across the island to the Samsø Energiakademi - the Energy Academy. We were given a presentation by Time magazine's Energy Hero of 2008 Søren Hermansen. As a self proclaimed red neck farmer from Samsø, he explained how the island was thrust into being Denmark's energy community by a misplanned political strategy between two businessmen and the Mayor of Samsø. The island is a very conservative community and progess was slow. Many series of seminars about what the island could do to improve energy were conducted. No action would be taken and the ideas had to sink in with the one wanted to be associated with a possibly failure idea and be shunned and disgraced by the islanders. The most respected community members had to be brought on board first, giving credibility to the ideas.

In the end, the citizenry built 11 on shore wind turbines, 10 ocean wind turbines, three heating stations running on burning hay grown on the island, and a solar panel field. All in all, they reduced their carbon emissions by 140% which makes them have a surplus of clean energy and they import 1/3 of the petroleum products they did ten years ago.

Later that day, we biked over to Jøren Tranberg's farm where we toured his cows and then had the awesome privilege of climbing to the top of a wind turbine and looking at the motor and countryside. It was the first time that I've ever been able to see all four sides of an island at once...very cool.

The next day we hiked (not that high of ground though lol) along the northern coastline of Samsø near Nordby then toured a well preserved old village.

In the afternoon, we visited the Samsø Brewery. At the completely organic brewery we learned how they brewed their beers, sampled the individual components and sampled five of their beers. My favorite was the beer with some berry flavor.

Later, we headed back on the ferry to Zealand and returned to lovely Copenhagen.

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