California Looking to Denmark’s Use of Wind as Reliable Energy Source

Few countries have had a more intimate relationship with wind than Denmark.

That country’s success with wind as a reliable energy source is getting a close look by California’s regulators.

Denmark is using a regional market for wind that is being studied by the California Energy Commission.

Denmark’s modern relationship with wind power began with the oil crisis of the 1970s. That crisis led Denmark to rely on coal-fired electrical power in the 1980s. As a result, Denmark earned a high per capita carbon dioxide emissions rate.

The Danes weaned off coal with wind by providing 30 percent of the initial capital cost of a wind project and implementing feed-in tariffs. The tariffs guaranteed eligible renewable energy generation facilities receive a set price for the electricity they generate and provide to the grid.

Today, the country is a world leader in wind energy. Wind supplies 39 percent of its electricity, and the country’s wind turbine industry is one of the world’s largest.

Annual Wind Production in California

Central to the growth of wind has been a policy to integrate wind power into energy markets. Denmark has a market-based power exchange where interconnections with neighboring countries allow wind energy to be bought and sold.

“Through a regional market with other Scandinavian countries and Germany, Denmark has been able to sell power to other countries to avoid shutting down its wind turbines during times of excess,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller.

Denmark also wants wind to supply half of its electricity consumption by 2020.

“The Danes are both storing renewable power in the European-wide grids and also building operational flexibility into their current infrastructure,” Weisenmiller said. “We need to explore similar tools.”

Those tools will likely offer a path to help California evolve its steadily growing wind industry.

In 2015, wind energy was roughly 6 percent of in-state total power generation in California, up from only 2 percent in 2005, according to Energy Commission data.

“As California deepens its reliance on renewables, it’s important to learn from the European experience,” Weisenmiller said.

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The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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