Denmark leads the world in offshore wind power generation
Special to cct by Jack Coleman
NYSTED, DENMARK - While the future of the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound remains uncertain, this northern European nation that leads the world in offshore wind energy plans to build hundreds more turbines in its coastal waters, and 7-year-old Brewster boy Dylan Brady was there to see the turbines which are up and running now.
Denmark is already home to two of the largest offshore wind farms in the world - the 72-turbine array off Nysted in southern Lolland and an 80-turbine array at Horns Rev, along the western coast of the North Sea.
The wind farm six miles south of Nysted in the Baltic Sea leads the world in production of electricity from offshore turbines, with a capacity of 166 megawatts. Horns Rev is the biggest in terms of its number of turbines.
Wind farm supplies twice the power needed now
Just how much electricity is 166 megawatts? Enough to provide power for 110,000 to 120,000 homes, according to Lennart Damsbo-Andersen, Nysted's mayor, or "Borgmester."
"On these two islands, we have 113,000 people and about 60,000 homes," Damsbo-Anderson said, referring to the main islands of Falster and Lolland in southern Denmark.
Between hundreds of land-based wind turbines and the project at Nysted (pronounced "New-sted"), the two islands generate about twice as much electricity as they need. The remainder is sent to other parts of Denmark.
And dramatic increases coming fast
Despite this abundance of electricity from the wind, a non-polluting and inexhaustible source of energy, Denmark plans to dramatically increase the number of turbines at both Nysted and Hors Rev off the coast of Jutland, along the North Sea.
At Nysted, which began full operations in December 2003, "the new turbines will double the capacity" of the existing wind farm, Damsbo-Anderson said. A similar expansion is planned close to Horns Rev.
Damsbo-Anderson described the history of the Nysted wind farm and local reactions to it for 34 visitors from Cape Cod and the Northeast touring Denmark to see offshore wind farms for themselves. The five-day trip was organized by Centerville residents William and Dorte Griswold, members of Clean Power Now.
The Cape Cod-based non-profit advocates in favor of the controversial offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.
Hans-Erik Johnsen, chief engineer for the town of Nysted, said he hopes the new turbines off Nysted are built away from the southern end of the turbine array, to reduce the visual impact.
Johnsen was the first official in Nysted, a coastal village and tourist attraction with 1,200 year-round residents, to receive word from the government about the proposed wind farm.
"I said, 'what the hell is that?' " Johnsen recalled. Then he went to the governing council and said, "we have a problem."
Many Nysted residents were put off that the government has decided by decree to build the wind farm only six miles offshore, without taking the time to hear from local residents - who let their elected officials know loud and clear that they were unhappy.
Among the most onerous of conditions was that Nysted Harbor would have to close during construction of the wind farm, a period initially expected to take longer than a year.
But advances in turbine technology, similar to what has occurred with the Cape Wind project, allow planners to trim the project from 90 to 72 turbines.
The planners also agreed to move the nine-square-mile footprint of the wind farm one mile to the west, which meant the channel out of Nysted Harbor would not be blocked during construction.
Threat to tourism just didn't happen
For a coastal town that receives 5,000 visitors by boat in any given summer, and which counts tourism as the second most important part of its economy, after farming, this was hardly a minor grievance.
"The problem for us was sailing and tourists, sailing out of our harbor," Johnsen said. "We are the biggest sailing harbor in Lolland," one of the main islands in southern Denmark.
Nysted's well-protected harbor is dominated by a castle built in the 13th century, and now privately owned. The wind turbines are visible from this historic place.
Also changed was the government's initial plan to prohibit boats from traveling within the waters of the wind farm.
And last but not to be overlooked, local residents also asked for the name of the project to be changed - from "Rodsand," for the shoals where the turbines would be built - to the Nysted Windmill Park.
"Then the world will know, where is Nysted?" Johnsen said.
Construction of the wind farm off Nysted also took less time than expected. Construction of the foundations of the first turbines began in May 2003 and within three months, all 72 turbines were situated in their foundations. That July, 10 of the turbines began operating and the entire project was generating electricity by December.
Wind industry employs 20,000 Danes
For the first-time visitor to Denmark, the sheer number of turbines is amazing. In a country where the highest mountain reaches 546 feet, not much taller than the average landfill in the US, the constant motion of spinning turbine blades can be seen from miles across the gentle rolling farmland that defines the countryside.
The country is home to 4,000 land- and sea-based wind turbines, according to William Griswold, and leads the world in turbine production, an industry that employs 20,000 Danes.
Charter fishing boat captain Gregers Glensdorf, who has worked the waters off Nysted for 10 years, said many people in Denmark support offshore wind as a way to limit the number of turbines on land.
"It's better to get them away from land and out on the water," Glensdorf said.