Samsø: a success story or just the absence of reporting the complete story?

In the case of Samsø island, it were the people of the island who themselves invested in their power production (wind mills, solar and biomass). The story is that before they managed to made the transition, they had to import fossil fuels and electricity from the mainland, therefor being dependent on outside support for their energy needs. Now the islanders are “100% powered by wind”, are on the receiving end of an array of subsidies, can sell their surplus power and are boosting their local economy by favoring local laborers. One story even mentioned that all this was a fairy tale, but one that became real… Is this a good representation of reality?

Unfortunately, this success is only part of the story. As seen in previous post, the 100% powered by wind is only true by the use of a trick. The key to that success is an overproduction and that trick is the belief that their current fossil fuel use is compensated by this overproduction. The people from Samsø are self-sufficient in the sense that they produce more electricity than they consume, but that is not what I would think of when I hear about a self-sufficient island. If they would cut the mainland power connection and the supply of fossil fuels, then they wouldn’t be able to supply for their own needs, even with those 11 extra windmills that they have.

Then what about the subsidies that the locals receive for their participation in those windmills? True, they managed to be on the receiving end and this will raise their standard of living, but also this is only part of the story. Knowing that the used technology is very expensive and wouldn’t be chosen if there weren’t subsidies to support it, one could at least suspect that there is something else playing. The money has to come from somewhere, in the end someone has to pay for this. The focus in those cheering stories is only on that local community that knows how to play the system, but the story is much bigger than that.

The question I ask myself: is that a sustainable model? The cheering stories want us to believe that a transition is possible while gaining from it. There are voices in our country that claim that we need such a cooperative model to boost wind and solar energy. This seems narrow-minded to me. Alternative energy doesn’t get cheaper because a local community is making the investment. It is just a redistribution from those who don’t had the desire and/or the means to invest in wind energy to those who have. The focus of those success stories is on those who gain from it, not those who pay for it and that makes them so successful.

The fact that the islanders knwo how to play the system and manage to get better from it, doesn’t mean that this is a sustainable system. The success story can be represented as a fairy tale because only the favorable things are told and the less favorable are not even mentioned. How real is that success story then?

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6 thoughts on “Samsø: a success story or just the absence of reporting the complete story?

  1. Edward Hurst

    I would ask what will the finances look like when the subsidies end? Are they going to be able to afford to pay for the maintenance of aging infrastructure?

    Reply
    1. trustyetverify Post author

      That is a very good question. I don’t think that wind energy is viable at this moment, so my guess is that without subsidies that infrastructure will be abandoned sooner or later.

      Reply
  2. chrism56

    I think the best term for them is they are a grid export node – they are no different to a power station connection. They still need the rest of the grid for frequency control and inertia.

    Reply
    1. poitsplace

      I think that term obfuscates the reality.. Normal output node outputs do not swing wildly and rarely draw substantial power… unless of course those changes are in response to demand. Without the combination of BOTH laws forcing the use of the electricity AND massive subsidies, this power source would not be used except in the very best locations.

      This island doesn’t need the rest of the grid for “frequency control and inertia”…they need it to provide the stability that holds the vast majority of the value for electricity. To put it bluntly, they are a sometimes parasite that produces a near worthless product that everyone is forced by law to buy, subsidize, and pay all the extra costs associated with integrating such a worthless energy source into the system without any regard for how impractical it is.

      Reply
  3. poitsplace

    The sad thing is that if you check the BIOs of environmental reporters, they come from the very groups that put out these propaganda leaflets. Their claims could be easily destroyed by even the most basic of questions..but in the vast majority of cases, the reporters won’t question it one bit. They will of course give all kinds of pointed questions for anything supporting use of fossil fuels or nuclear. And of they’ll give any unverified claim by a green group a free hearing on the matter in the same article.

    Reply

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