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Earth Power Science

From Turbines and Straw, Danish Self-Sufficiency 183

Posted by Soulskill
from the mmmm-danish dept.
chrnb writes "Last year, the Danish island of Samso (pronounced SOME-suh) completed a 10-year experiment to see whether it could become energy self-sufficient. The islanders, with generous amounts of aid from mainland Denmark, busily set themselves about erecting wind turbines, installing nonpolluting straw-burning furnaces to heat their sturdy brick houses and placing panels here and there to create electricity from the island's sparse sunshine. By their own accounts, the islanders have met the goal. For energy experts, the crucial measurement is called energy density, or the amount of energy produced per unit of area, and it should be at least 2 watts for every square meter, or 11 square feet. 'We just met it,' said Soren Hermansen, the director of the local Energy Academy, a former farmer who is a consultant to the islanders."
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From Turbines and Straw, Danish Self-Sufficiency

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  • Mmmm.... Danish....
    • by MonoSynth (323007)

      girls and cookies!

  • Samso? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) * on Saturday October 10, 2009 @01:50AM (#29701955) Homepage
    This being one of the few enclaves of the Internet where flagrant nitpickery is acceptable, let me say that it's "Samsø" and not "Samso".

    Samsø is in fact carbon negative. The island produces more renewable energy than it consumes. That's a good way of summing it up and I'm surprised neither the slashdot summary not the NYT article point this out. It's easily more interesting than them burning straw.

    But what I really came here to say is, they produce fantastic potatoes on Samsø. As far as I'm concerned, they could power their Hummers with liquified kittens if it keeps the (Samsø potato) spice flowing.

    • No realli! She was Karving her initials on the møøse with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian møvies: "The Høt Hands of an Oslo Dentist", "Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Mølars of Horst Nordfink".

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mybecq (131456)

      let me say that it's "Samsø" and not "Samso"

      Take your fancy ISO characters back where they belong -- this is Slashdot, dang nab it, where ASCII is not just a good idea, It's the Law!



      (Yes, blah blah blah ISO-8859-1 blah blah blah.)

    • Re:Samso? (Score:5, Funny)

      by jabithew (1340853) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:48AM (#29702237)

      they could power their Hummers with liquified kittens

      Sir, I find your ideas intriguing and I wish to invest in your startup.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Isn't that what you call a catalytic converter?

      • by ignavus (213578)

        "Put a tiger in your tank" - for rather small values of "tiger".

    • Samsø is in fact carbon negative.

      Even if their entire domestic energy usage is slightly carbon negative, that's only 20% of a person's energy footprint. The other 80% goes into manufacturing goods, transportation, commerce, communications, etc. That carbon footprint accrues simply because the people of Samsø are Danish citizens and participating in the Danish economy.

      So, it's unlikely that they are "carbon negative". Furthermore, they probably compensate for some of the inconveniences by extern

    • by selven (1556643)
      99%+ of people have no way of printing that character aside from googling "o with a line through it" and hitting Ctrl+V.
    • If this ever makes it to 4chan your life WILL be ruined forever. Just pray it doesn't.
  • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:09AM (#29701993)

    the thing that should stand out the most is the part mentioning how someone uses cow milk to heat his house.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260)

      the thing that should stand out the most is the part mentioning how someone uses cow milk to heat his house.

      That is funny, but if you've ever been around a dairy farm, it makes a lot of sense.

      When you milk a couple hundred cows twice daily, each giving about 3 gallons, the resulting 1200 gallons per day of blood-warm milk contains quite a lot of heat. Not only that, if the milk is intended for human consumption, it has to be heated further in the pasteurization process, raising it to about 170 degrees F -- and then it is often chilled, especially if it's going to sit in the tank for more than a day or two befo

  • by uuddlrlrab (1617237) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:31AM (#29702063)
    ...is Capitol Hill's very own coal-fired power plant, [washingtonpost.com]. Sucker is still belching tons of pollutants without producing a watt of electricity, thank you very much Senators Byrd & McConnell. And take a look at all the other coal-fired plants [wikipedia.org] in the US. Awesome. Obviously, doing nothing is a bad idea. Even if what the Danes have pulled off isn't truly 100% clean & pollution free, could it possibly be as bad as what we have now?
    • Sucker is still belching tons of pollutants without producing a watt of electricity

      . . . and this "Sucker" you refer to is also known as "Congress?"

      • by Tumbleweed (3706)

        . . . and this "Sucker" you refer to is also known as "Congress?"

        Two definitions of 'sucker' I know of as far as Washington, D.C. goes:

        1) Anyone voting Republican who isn't rich
        2) Anyone voting Democrat expecting actual liberal change.

        • by Thing 1 (178996)
          Huh. So, the Republicans get the dollars, and the Democrats get the change? Now I understand what the campaign was about!
    • by khallow (566160)

      Sucker is still belching tons of pollutants without producing a watt of electricity

      I read the story. It produces heat not electricity. Appropriate for Congress, and it is a valid thing for a coal burning plant to do.

      Also, you mention "tons of pollutants"? Over what time frame? Are you counting carbon dioxide? I'll say already, that if you are, then you shouldn't be. The idea that everything is equally a pollutant and hence equally harmful is a particularly toxic environmental myth. Consider that a ton of "pollutant" could be a ton of carbon dioxide or a ton of botulin. The former gets

      • by blindseer (891256)

        I read the story. It produces heat not electricity. Appropriate for Congress, and it is a valid thing for a coal burning plant to do.

        I also read the story and I also found that the power plant producing "more heat than light" to be amusing and appropriate for the District as well.

        Where I went to college there was a coal fired power plant on campus. It's primary purpose was to produce the heating and cooling for the buildings on the main campus. It had the capability to produce electricity but the generators where mostly kept at low power since it was cheaper to buy electricity from the city than produce it themselves. Best I could tel

      • Also, you mention "tons of pollutants"? Over what time frame?

        From the article:

        Last year, the Capitol Power Plant burned 17,108 tons of coal.

        If the coal:sulfur ratio by weight is 1:17,108, it will release exactly one ton of sulfur. This will be as sulfur dioxide (SO2), which weighs 64.07 g/mol, half of which is from sulfur (32.065 g/mol). In other words, one ton of sulfur becomes two tons of sulfur dioxide.

        From what I could find (ufl.edu [ufl.edu]), coal usually contains more than 1 percent of sulfur by weight.

        That me

      • by tibman (623933)

        I also read that article, i thought it strange that Eva Malecki wouldn't talk about the plan because of security concerns. If the plant only provided heat/cooling i don't think either of those systems would be considered critical. Perhaps it actually DOES power something? Just not anything that is on the books. Built in 1910? When was that bunker under union square built? around that same time?

  • "Last year, the Danish island of Samso (pronounced SOME-suh) completed a 10-year experiment to see whether it could become energy self-sufficient. The islanders, with generous amounts of aid from mainland Denmark

    Parse error. Receiving "generous amounts" of aid != self-sufficient. If the rest of Denmark attempts to follow them, who is going to generously give to Denmark?

    And has an independent party verified that Samsa is actually carbon neutral or just faking it? Remember that in the brave, new world of carbon cap and trades, carbon fraud is going to be (if it isn't already, considering certain would-be, for profit, carbon sinks) a popular activity.

    • by Zumbs (1241138) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @04:48AM (#29702375) Homepage
      The recieved generous amounts of aid in order to investigate what it would take to become self-sufficient. This is similar to producing a prototype of a technology before putting it into mass production: The prototype is likely to be much more expensive to produce than one of the mass produced items. Why do one build a prototype? To see how well it works, discover problems and issues before it is put into mass production.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by khallow (566160)
        So what was the prototype? I just see an uneconomic mess of well-developed technologies. Subsidizing an expensive alternative isn't the same as a "prototype". It can be, I admit that. But I don't see the novelty here. Another qualm I have is whether this program is sustainable. It apparently depends to a great degree on locals burning their hay in an heating plant rather than leaving it on the field. That might lead to soil loss in the long run.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It apparently depends to a great degree on locals burning their hay in an heating plant rather than leaving it on the field. That might lead to soil loss in the long run.

          Topsoil-based fuels are always wrongheaded if they don't do something beneficial to the soil. It would probably make more sense to just grow native grasses, because they tend to feature nitrogen and phosphorus fixers.

        • by hey! (33014)

          So what was the prototype? I just see an uneconomic mess of well-developed technologies. Subsidizing an expensive alternative isn't the same as a "prototype". It can be, I admit that. But I don't see the novelty here. Another qualm I have is whether this program is sustainable. It apparently depends to a great degree on locals burning their hay in an heating plant rather than leaving it on the field. That might lead to soil loss in the long run.

          Your point about the soil is worth considering, but it is not necessarily a telling one. The question is whether they are removing enough biomass to disturb some kind of equilibrium or generate some kind of physical disturbance. It leads to another important issue which you don't raise: scalability.

          My wife is a scientist who worked on the planning stages of the Boston Harbor cleanup. The basic design the engineers came up with was this: a large scale conventional primary and secondary treatment plant, d

          • by khallow (566160)

            Your point about the soil is worth considering, but it is not necessarily a telling one. The question is whether they are removing enough biomass to disturb some kind of equilibrium or generate some kind of physical disturbance. It leads to another important issue which you don't raise: scalability.

            I mostly ignored this issue (though needing subsidies is a related issue). You definitely bring up an important point there. Not everyone has a lot of biomass to burn.

            As far as the subsidy is concerned -- that's neither here nor there. Nothing gets done in this world without money being spent. Even saving money, if you exclude simply not doing something. You don't need to commission engineers and scientists to answer the question, "Can we make this Island energy self-sufficient if they stop heating their homes, using electricity or internal combustion vehicles." You *do* have to spend money to answer a question like, "How much of this straw can we burn before the soil dries up and blows away."

            It's certainly not my money that they spent. But I think it's quite cavalier how most of the people in the story were about the money that they used. And that's another point here that I think is worth emphasizing. Money spent making a small island carbon neutral (or if you consider heating, almost carbon neutral) probably could have been spen

    • by Xarius (691264)

      Denmark obviously thought it was worth investing in this experiment to see if the things tried worked and were viable long-term. I would expect the aid given was an initial investment and not an ongoing requirement for the sustainability--sort of like venture capital.

  • Can the power generated by ONE windmill build, from raw materials, another windmill, assemble it, transport it into place and erect and maintain it. The EROEI / emergy figures on this are obscure and hard to find and deeply contested. The windpower industry says either "yes, over the lifetime of a windmill, it will vastly exceed that value" or they make excuses like "it doesn't matter for () reasons".

    The bottom line is if it generates less energy over its lifetime than is required to mine the metals, refi

    • by mspohr (589790)
      The power used to build a windmill has a cost and this cost is reflected in the price of the windmill (plus wages, profit, etc.) so it is easy to calculate whether or not the windmill pays back the energy cost. If the windmill pays back its cost in the revenue from the power it generates then it is indeed generating more power than was used to build it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 32771 (906153)

      So you want another study on top of the large number of studies already done. Fine - I question your motives though. It seems to be a smoke screen at best. I mean you could have looked it up yourself and presented your somewhat better founded ideas here instead of spreading FUD.

      Regarding the EROI you could start here:

      http://www.eoearth.org/article/Energy_return_on_investment_(EROI)_for_wind_energy [eoearth.org]

      and here:

      "Food, Energy, and Society", David Pimentel, Marcia Pimentel, Edition 3, illustrated, CRC Press, 2008,

  • Bricks take a tremendous amount of energy to produce and transport.

    Esp "sturdy" ones.

  • 1. There are only 4000 people on this island.
    2. The island has an area 114 km2.
    3. Thus it gives us a population density of 35 people per km2.
    4. Even if people were distributed evenly across earth's land area, it could support slightly more than 5 billion people in this matter. Of course a lot of earth's area is not habitable, and people are not distributed evenly.

    Other problems:
    "However, its heating plants, burning wheat and rye straw grown by its farmers, cover only about 75 percent of the island’s h

  • Let's do some math. At 4,000 people, that's around 8mw of peak demand assuming 2kw per househould.

    So one guy plinked down 1.2M to buy one windmill. The best windmill gets you I think 3Mw, and even then, only if it is windy. By contrast, for about a million bucks, I could pick up a diesel generator station that delivers the 8MW and have power for everyone, whenever they need it.

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