CREDIT: flickr/ Ville-Matti Kaartinen
A new analysis from the government of Denmark found that wind power is by far the cheapest new form of electricity in the country. New onshore wind plants coming online in 2016 will provide energy for about half the price of coal and natural gas plants, according to the Danish Energy Agency (DEA), and will cost around five cents per kilowatt hour.
“Wind power today is cheaper than other forms of energy, not least because of a big commitment and professionalism in the field,” said Rasmus Peterson, Danish energy minister. “This is true both for researchers, companies and politicians. We need a long-term and stable energy policy to ensure that renewable energy, both today and in the future is the obvious choice.”
The DEA analysis, which was based on a four percent interest rate and International Energy Agency fuel and carbon price forecasts, found that wind would still be the cheapest energy source if interest rates increased ten percent. It also stressed “that the analysis was not based on a full cost-benefit assessment of different technologies that included an assessment of environmental benefits, taxes or subsidies.”
Denmark has been a leader in wind energy production for decades, and the efforts are paying off as evidenced by a string of benchmarks. In December, wind power accounted for more than half of the country’s electricity consumption for the first time. This 50 percent threshold is a goal the Danish government has set to be the standard share of wind power in the total electricity consumption mix by 2020. During the last week of 2013, when electricity consumption is down due to holiday closings, wind turbines reached the equivalent output of 68.5 percent of electricity consumption.
By 2020, the country aims to produce 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources and to raise that to 100 percent by 2050. Onshore and offshore wind power will make up most of this capacity. The country has come up with some innovative ways of dealing with issues like local resistance, which can be a hindrance to large projects that encroach on people’s property.
In May, Kristoffer Böttzauw, the deputy director general of the DEA, said that in 2008 the government introduced new requirements that directly compensate residents for any losses. For example, if a house loses value after a wind turbine goes up nearby, the operator must compensate the owner for the loss. Also, at least 20 percent of the shares for any project must be offered to local residents, giving them a more direct stake in the undertaking. He also said that the community receives a direct allocation per megawatt of power generated.
He said these changes “bring direct benefits to the community and its citizens if they give their support.”
To reduce the imposition of new power lines, most of the cables are being laid underground. This is an expensive solution but one that was deemed necessary according to Böttzauw, who said “locals could not be expected to put up with new utility poles in addition to the towering turbines.”
When there’s excess wind power, Denmark is looking for ways to store that energy. One method is through electric cars that can store wind energy and send it back into the system later. Another is to use heat pumps to store excess capacity that can later heat homes and buildings. Sending excess power to a pumped storage hydropower facility is another option. New technologies for storing intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar are also being rapidly developed.