Denmark has long held a position as a wind energy leader, but its output is really beginning to get serious. Excited headlines have been bouncing around the greener corners of the Internet for the last few days, declaring an admittedly astounding statistic:
As The Guardian article states, that’s a pretty big deal. Sure, there are cities and even states aiming for 100 percent renewables, but most are decades away from achieving those goals.
So has Denmark beaten them to it? The answer is yes. And no.
The fact is that while Denmark did indeed achieve 140 percent of its electricity supply from renewables, that figure refers to a very specific moment in time (3 a.m. on July 10 to be precise), when winds were unusually high and demand was unsurprisingly low. That said, this wasn’t just a momentary flash — The Guardian reports that the country was already getting 116 percent of its electricity supply from wind the night before — meaning wind was supplying more electricity than the country needed for a significant number of hours.
Perhaps more interesting, and more significant, than the specific percentage of wind-powered electricity at any given moment is that Denmark was able to export all of its excess power to neighboring countries, two of which — Norway and Germany — are able to store power by pumping water into their hydropower stations to generate electricity later when demand increases.
In this sense, while renewable energy naysayers may point to the variability of wind as a downside, the work that’s been done of late in Europe to increase transmission lines across national boundaries, and boost the capacity for energy storage, shows that renewables can and will be integrated into the grid system with minimal disruption. When there's an oversupply in one region, electricity can be increasingly moved and/or stored to meet demand in either a different location or at a different time.
In fact, Cleantechnica has an interesting post about researchers in Norway who are trying to model just how much of Europe's green energy storage needs Norway could meet through its hydroelectric power stations. The idea, basically, is to turn the country's energy system into a gigantic virtual battery.
Chances are, this storage capacity is going to be needed. And soon. The Guardian also reports that last week's record, combined with significant increases in wind power capacity each year, mean that Denmark is well on track to meet 50 percent of its electricity needs from renewables well before its self-imposed deadline of 2020.
Maybe the rest of the world needs to catch up. But we have a long way to go...
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