Sustainable Cities™

Samsoe: A role model in self-sufficiency

In just eight years, a broad collaboration on Samsoe has managed to convert the island’s energy production from oil and coal to renewable energy. Local involvement has created a bit of a social energy movement. Today, the island produces more renewable energy than it uses and exports excess energy to the mainland. Samsoe has an international lead as an energy-efficient research island, from which the Samsoe Energy Academy shares knowledge and experiences with the world.

Havvindmøller ved Samsø. Foto venligst udlånt af Samsø EnergiAkademi

In 1997, Samsoe won a competition launched by the Danish Ministry of the Environment to become Denmark's Renewable Energy Island. Interested participants were provided small amounts of money to complete their proposals. Samsoe won with a 10-year plan aiming at 100% self-sufficiency in renewable energy by 2008.

Today, all electricity on the island comes from 11 wind turbines on land and 70% of the heat supply comes from four sustainable district heating plants. A large amount of small private systems also contribute to the production of renewable energy.

One of the major challenges was the transport sector. This sector is difficult to convert to renewable energy on a large scale because the technology is not yet adequately developed. Until this is possible, Samsoe has chosen to compensate for energy used in transport by building 10 offshore wind turbines. Annually, they send more electricity to the mainland than the island uses for transport - including oil to the island's three ferries. People work together and individually on new transport solutions using everything from biogas and waste dump gas to rapeseed oil, and there are also plans for electric cars.

Ambassadeurs visiting Nordby pond. Courtesy of Samsø Energy Academy.

Samsoe is a significant international demonstration project and a showcase for Danish energy technology. This is why the research centre and exploratorium, Samsoe Energy Academy, opened in 2007. The academy arranges exhibitions and workshops which attract more than 4,000 politicians, journalists and students from around the world every year. Visitors are particularly eager to learn from Samsø's experiences with wind, straw and solar energy. Researchers from both Danish and foreign educational institutions are able to do energy research at the Academy and Island residents can get free advice on sustainable solutions. Furthermore, it functions as a conference center where companies, researchers and politicians discuss renewable energy, energy savings and new technologies.

Citizen participation

To get the widest possible local support, citizens of the island have been involved from the beginning through participation in citizen meetings and the establishment of working groups. In the same democratic spirit, the Samsoe district heating plants and wind turbines have different ownership forms; from municipal and commercially owned to privately-owned and individual investment-based. Samsoe's population takes an active part in this 'energy democracy' and has shares in wind turbines. Farmers profit by providing the straw to the straw-fired district heating plants, etc. Local interest has made participation the norm and is therefore an important reason for the success of the project.

"We care about the production, because we own the wind turbines. Every time they turn around, it means money in the bank. And, being part of it, we also feel responsible." Søren Hermansen, Daily leader of the Energy Academy


For eight years, various pools and agencies as well as the EU and the Samsoe Municipality have invested nearly 67.1 mio EUR in renewable energy on the island. Samsoe municipality itself has invested about 17 mio EUR in five of the 10 offshore wind turbines, which have proven to be good business ventures. Profits from the five mills will be used for future energy projects. Three offshore wind turbines are owned by private investors such as farmers, who have come together to buy them and the last two mills are divided into shares which are sold to private investors such as island residents.

The total investment for Samsoe's 11 wind turbines on land was 8.9 mio. EUR. Nine of these turbines are owned by farmers. The other two are owned by a local windmill guild. Each turbine produces enough electricity for 630 standard homes. Altogether, the 11 mills produce more electricity than the island's total consumption. Usually a wind turbine owner/shareholder realizes the initial investment after eight to ten years. On Samsoe, the total cost for a wind turbine on land amounts to 805,000 EUR and for an offshore approximately 3.4 mio. EUR.

In the same way in which wind turbines are divided into different forms of ownership, so too are the three straw-based district heating plants. One is owned by the Danish energy company NRGi, which also operates the island's fourth plant with solar panels. The second one is owned by a private contractor and the last is divided into shares and owned by local consumers. It has not been a goal from the beginning to have different forms of ownership, but it has proven practical and opportune for the various projects.

Passive house 10

The Energy Academy is also planning the development of the energy efficient house " Passive house 10". Alongside this, the Academy plans to have electric cars be the transport used to reach the houses. The "Passive house 10 will be developed in collaboration with the architect practice ARKITEMA, which requires that the cost to build a passive house doesn't exceed 10% compared to that of a conventional dwelling. The idea is that people who book a passive summer house are supplied with an electric car at the harbour so they do not have to bring their own car. This is how both driving and housing will be 100 % CO2 neutral.


Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014