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Published on March 5th, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


How Denmark Will Integrate 50% Wind Power by 2025

March 5th, 2011 by  

Denmark gets 20% of its energy from wind power, and plans to get to 50% by 2025. So it is frequently debunked by the opponents of wind power (the extractive energy industry) as “having to export most” of its wind power across its borders.

Others claim the export figure is as little as 0.1%, but perhaps the question itself misses the point. Normally having a commodity that you are in a position to sell is seen as a good thing.

All renewable energy sources can work together balancing each other, and the more options there are to balance output within the widest possible geographic region, the better.

The Denmark/Sweden/Germany/Norway/Finland market boasts significant (variable) hydro power, and on the other hand, district heating systems that can store surpluses.

So an exhaustively detailed paper presented today by Andrew Smith of London Analytics looked at hourly power data from 2000-2010, hourly price data from 2006-2010, and minute-by-minute data from the last twelve months, has some useful insights, on integrating 50% wind by 2025.

It concludes that Denmark is able to use its high-capacity inter-connectors at the border to smooth variations in wind generation at the minute by minute level. But, even more, it balances variations in demand in neighboring countries, due to fluctuating hydro power in neighboring countries.

Wind generally works best when farms are spread a larger geographic area, both for the variation in wind speeds, which get evened out over larger areas with variation in weather conditions, and in demand which also evens out by crossing time zones so that the people who use electricity are waking up and going to sleep at different times.

To export (and import), Western Denmark has an AC connector to Germany that can export at 1500MW and import at 950MW, 740MW of DC connectors to Sweden, and 1040MW of DC connectors to Norway. Eastern Denmark has a 1900MW AC connector to the Swedish grid, and a 600MW DC connector with Germany.

Denmark is only 16,621 square miles, half the size of Maine, and serves electricity to a home population of just 5.5 million. But one neighbor alone, Germany, has a population of 81 million, so enabling exports of electricity makes sense from a market point of view.

The study found that higher prices across the border was more of a determinant for exports than lack of demand at home, with high prices were driven by variations in regional weather conditions such as the dry years reducing hydro power in Norway and Sweden.

In order to integrate 50% onto the Danish grid, the report recommended integrating all the distributed players in the market, on both the supply and demand side, to meet future balancing needs.

One such source of balancing is the country’s extensive heat storage capacity in the Danish district heating systems. Previous energy researchers had found that “As a rough estimate between 20 and 30 GWh energy can be stored as useful heat.”

30 GWh of heat storage in a grid with up to 5 GW of wind capacity installed, would provide the needed sink for peaks of wind energy generation, by itself.

Denmark is frequently held up as a case study of a grid successfully integrating wind penetration of 20%, and so as it ramps up to 50%, so it has lessons for the US.

But fears about exporting electricity across borders is hardly one of them.

Image: Jónína Guðrún Óskarsdóttir
Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World

She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American.

As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator’s perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. 
Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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  • johnmarshall

    I think this column is a good illustration of why there is no one size fits all solution in the world. Denmark, lacking any natural resources to exploit, will do well with wind energy, rather than being at the mercy of importing fossil fuels. In the US it is far more difficult for wind energy to compete on price with nat gas and coal which are in abundance.

  • mesion kogali

    Its not only Denmark that must change. The whole world must … and will. Energy prices will soon drop! Cold Fusion is hot. It is expected to have international awareness probably by the EU Summit later this month.

    Yes, it really is a reality!

    According to Andrea Rossi and his Energy Catalyzer, which he presented to a closed group in Italy, January 15th, despite lack of theoretical knowledge, the results of one unit in and twenty units out, is outstanding.

    Links to http://www.lenr-canr.org, http://www.peswiki.com, http://www.nyteknik.com, http://www.talefta.blogspot.com, journal-of-nuclear-science.com are a good start to read up.

    Official comments can be obtained.

    • Anonymous


      Two days left in “later this month” and nothing in the news so far.

      There was an EU energy summit in early February. I see nothing on line about one in March.

      Pons and Fleishman ring a bell with anyone?

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  • Dr.A.Jagadeesh

    Yes. It is possible. Infact Denmark was once leading in Wind after US. Then Germany and Spain surpassed. I worked in Wind Energy in Denmark and I know how Wind Farm Co-operatives there operate Wind Turbines.

    Denmark’s Energy Plan 2025•Foresees stabilisation of energy consumption•Increasing renewable contribution to 30% of demand–Across all sectors•A high fraction of renewable energy will be wind power that is intendeddisplace imported coal and gas in the electricity sector•Wind generated hydrogen used in transport can displace oilSuccessful implementation will demand new thinking and new techniques.

    West Denmark has the World’s highest wind capacity, kW per capita

    •West Denmark0.88 kW
    •Ireland (end 2006)0.34 kW
    •Germany0.22 kW

    Measures announced are consumer-friendly

    •East –West inter-connector will deliver up to 600 MW more wind power to East Denmark
    –Which has less wind capacity because it blows less
    •Use of over-flow electricity to provide district heating
    –Will save fuel and CO2emissions
    •Demand will be encouraged at periods of high wind output…
    –…by demand-side pricing
    –…saving fossil generation and/or imports across the inter-connectors.

    EveryMWh of Danish wind power is subsidized by the Danish consumer…
    •Wind energy that is exported at a low spot price exports both subsidy ANDCO2emission reductions directly to Norwegian, Swedish and German consumers
    •…whereas every MWh of wind energy consumed insideDenmark ”returns the subsidy to the consumer”, saves fuel imports and really reduces Danish CO2emissions(Source:.incoteco,VRB Power Systems).

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  • Hello there, and thanks for the coverage (I’m the author).

    Re hydro fluctuations and exports: there are at least two separate things going on, at different timescales – please allow me to distinguish them.

    1) At the minute-by-minute level, Denmark exports its variations in wind, but even more so it exports its variations in demand, to its neighbours who, as Bill Woods says, can turn their hydro up and down quickly.

    2) At the year-by-year level, when Norway/Sweden/Finland have had a dry year, then they import a lot of power, including from Denmark – so Denmark’s electricity exports have a large spike lasting many months, driven by the higher prices from their neighbours. These exports come from thermal plant (biomass, coal, gas) that runs higher and longer because it’s profitable for them to do so.

    Being part of a larger system is a very good way to integrate lots of renewables: wider geographic dispersion smooths variability (see papers by Hannele Holttinen and Gregor Czisch for details). ISTM that the Tres Amigas project is a key element in American energy security, for this very reason. Each new interconnector, contributes to the grid at each end of it becoming a small part of a larger grid. It’s one of the most economically efficient ways to deliver energy security, and the world will move increasingly towards (multi-)continental-scale grids.

    • Thanks Andrew,
      so it is not Danish wind being exported so much as Danish fossil power! Sorry I missed that – very long pdf…

      That really changes the argument used here against wind, that we shouldn’t add any because it “has to be exported.”
      (Watch the argument change to “fossil fuel is the real money-maker as it can be consistently exported” !!)

  • This is definitely very good! I hope they accomplish this goal sooner than latter. Good for the Danes!

  • Bill Woods

    Saying “Denmark gets 20% of its energy from wind power” is like saying Nolan County, Texas gets 99.44% of its energy from wind power. It ignores the fact that they are both parts of much larger systems, of which the wind fraction of generating capacity is much smaller.

    “[W]ind generation … balances variations in demand in neighboring countries, due to fluctuating hydro power in neighboring countries.”
    This is confusing cause and effect. Hydro power fluctuates on command, to follow variability in wind power and demand.

    • Hi Bill, yes, I know hydro can also be tamped on demand when needed, (like now in BPA) but according to this study, in this case it was dry weather in the neighboring countries that caused a reduction in hydro production – that made exporting wind more attractive, (higher prices over the border). The Himalayas also are having hydro power reduction for drought reasons. So it can be both.

      I don’t agree with comparing a nation with just one (productive) county in Texas. It is more like countries in the EU are comparable with states in the US, where it is a bit easier to count production and consumption than in counties. The interconnections are not between between counties in Texas. That is how we can definitively say that Iowa produces 20% of its power from wind, that Texas makes more wind power than Germany, etc.

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