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Denmark is commonly known as the southernmost country of the three Scandinavian countries along with Norway and Sweden. Out of the three, Denmark known for the birthplace of the Little Mermaid fairytale, butter cookies, chocolates, liquors and most recently the world’s leading producer of Wind technology and energy. The transition from fossil fuels to wind was the result of the 1970 oil embargo which left the country in a dire situation. Over 90% of the energy powering the country at the time relied on importing oil and coal from the middle east.
The transition led to the rise of Danish manufacturers such as Vestas and Siemens Wind Power, whom to this day produce a substantial share of the wind turbines found globally.
The resulting action lead to a culture and economic shift in the energy and transportation sector. Fossil fuels turned into bikes and electric vehicles due to the enormous 180% tax rate on traditional cars. The image below depicts the decrease in consumption of oil and coal in Denmark over the past few decades.
The goal set by the Danish government is to achieve 50% of its electricity from wind by 2020 and 85% by 2035, which seems extremely likely if one looks back on past records. In the previous year (2017) wind energy accounted for 43.4% of the total energy consumption compared to the 33% in 2013, 39% in 2014 and 42% from 2015. The image below converts the figures listed above into a bar graph depicting the upward trend and capacity of accumulated wind energy generated.
The crown jewel of Denmark’s ambitious transition to renewable energy comes from the island of Samso, lying approximately 87 miles (141km) east of the capital of Copenhagen.
The island housed 11 one-megawatt land-based wind turbines in 2000 with an addition of 10 offshore 2.3-megawatt turbines in 2003. At the start of the century, wind energy only account approximately 1/3 of the electricity consumption for the island, with the rest coming from burning of biomass. (Larsen, 2001). Fast forward to 2013, 100% of the island’s electricity comes from wind power with excess being exported into mainland Denmark and ultimately the EU via Energinet.
Denmark version of the future includes a complete reliance on renewable energy predominantly in wind energy, though ideal in producing a significant amount of energy for the country and surrounding EU members does have its shares of environmental problems stemming in economics, biology and health. Economic problems from current wind energy are the high cost for the average Danish consumer and the decrease of property values for those living in proximity of turbines. The low appeal of these countryside properties is vulnerable to companies like Vertas, whom have purchased and bulldozed villages in order increase the range from turbines. In doing so the practice puts more pressure on nearby residents to relocate to more urban environments.
In terms of Biology the locations of these turbines lead to habitat fragmentation and degradation. The locations of turbines have negative impacts on seabirds, bats and several fish and shark species in the area. For bats specifically, turbines have caused the decline in local populations as they fly into spinning blades or lead to internal bleeding (blood filled lungs) due to the rapid decrease in air pressure surrounding the turbine. The Danish government require an average distance between a turbine and a home in the countryside to be at least 4 times the height of the turbine itself.
However, the consensus is that 15 times the distance is most ideal to prevent noise pollution, both high and low frequencies. The production of noise pollution leads to issues relating to depression, lack of sleep, decrease in brain function, ear sensitivity, high blood pressure and the loss of balance just to name some. The associated health problems have been tied into the abandonment or sale of properties in the countryside for extremely low prices, tying back into the economic issue stated above.
The main problem, however, is the dependability and integration of wind energy into the already formed electrical grid, ultimately leading to the high costs for Danish consumers. The high costs arise as Danes have paid billions in taxes and fees to support these turbines (most are either partially owned by independent companies or communal areas), which has caused the overall price to skyrocket, while the actual cost of electricity has decreased. According to Thomas Larsen, the Head of the Danish Ministry of Taxation (2011).
The pie chart on the right, illustrates the breakdown of the average electric bills received by Danes. As you can see a 36.3% of the bill comes out to as “Charge” which is used to fund Denmark’s welfare state, while the next portion coming from the VAT tax which is a consumption tax placed on the generation of electricity (from its production to the sale). The chart and the research support the notion that Denmark has an extremely low cost for electricity, but also provides insights on why it’s a high cost market for the Danish population.
The main problem of wind energy for the Danish population, is its high cost, specifically as a result of nonpeak hours, where energy is sold at wholesale to neighboring nations. In order to combat this, Compressed Air Energy Storage can be implemented in which air is forced into a large container during peak generations hours and is ignited during off peak hours for a constant power supply. The Compressed Air Energy Storage method would be useful for selling a higher volume of electrical energy during peak hours, thereby reducing the economic burden placed on the Danes in transportation and VAT cost. Compressed Air Energy Storage can be measured to determine its profitability by finding the net profit of this methodology and trade subtracted from the current method.
Ideally, the net profit can be funneled into lowering the economic burden of its citizens by decreasing the overall percentage that goes into transportation or VAT costs or even direct the funds into the PSO sector to fund research and development of more efficient turbines. In conjunction to the economics portion, wind energy is also a source of health and biological concerns. Traditionally, wind turbines have a white-grey coloration which has played an enormous factor in avian and bat mortality. Carbon nanotubes-based turbine blades offer an excellent solution to both the health and biological issues compared to the traditional turbine blades made of reinforced carbon-fiber plastics. Flexibility/ endurance and superior noise suppressant over the typical blades.
The noise suppressant would somewhat mediate the symptoms experience from typical turbines in the countryside as well as increase the productivity in electricity generation. The dark coloration on the other hand, will decrease the likelihood of collisions experience by wildlife, though a radar can also be attached at the central point of the turbine to slow/ shut down rotation once an organism gets too close. The effects of carbon nanotubes can be measured through traditional surveying methods first used to determine the link between traditional turbines with loss of avian/ bat populations.
In terms of human health, noise measurements can be taken and compared to traditional turbines to see if there are noticeable changes in both high and low frequency noise. The initial cost of nanotubes however is costlier than carbon fiber plastics and the production with these tubes can be associated with the general PSO tax (used in Research and Development), which advocates for 7% of electrical cost bringing in well over 630million euros back in 2012.
In general, wind energy is extremely advantageous in Denmark, because of the government’s subsidies and general location between the Baltic and North Sea. In such, the nation is was able to generate 43.7% of its electricity solely from wind energy in 2017, while exporting excess to surround EU nations. The main disadvantages of wind power in Denmark are the economic implications of high cost and practices of Vertas, the biological effects on local wildlife and health issue for those living in proximity of turbines.
In such different storage methodology and materials used in the turbines should be investigated as these two are the main causes for the high prices of electricity. In storage method the compressed air storage could be implemented to store energy in peak hours and release it for use in nonpeak hours instead of selling it at wholesale prices to other nations. This in turn should reduce the cost of transportation and VAT taxation faced. In terms of materials, carbon nanotubes can be used instead of the traditional reinforced carbon-plastic materials due to its higher conductivity rate and slim structure reducing noise pollution. The use of carbon nanotube material should ideally reduce health impacts, increase energy production and decrease risk to wildlife.
The installation of radars on turbines may also be a possible alternative to existing turbines to reduce the causalities to bats and avian species. Alternatively, the Danish government can adopt the methods used on Samso Island in which the burning of biomass is supplemented with wind energy to completely power the island and excess is sold back into the grid system. On the mainland, solar energy can be used to supplement wind energy in times when there is a lack of wind, thereby decreasing the nation’s reliance on electricity imports for countries like Germany and Norway.
In conclusion, even though Denmark is heavily reliant on wind energy, alternative pathways such as solar should be explored to supplement the energy generated by wind. As explored throughout the paper, wind energy yields extremely high costs for the Danish population due to the VAT taxes and impacts of turbines on the economy, health and biology. In order to mitigate the high costs and other impacts from turbines, new storage methods and materials should be explored, such as carbon nanotubes and compressed air storage.
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