Denmark green-lights energy islands - updated

The Danish parliament has approved plans for the world’s first two energy islands and a 1GW offshore wind farm.

Denmark currently has 1.7GW of operational offshore wind capacity (pic credit: Ørsted)
Denmark currently has 1.7GW of operational offshore wind capacity (pic credit: Ørsted)

The government's new climate plan includes a 3GW island in the North Sea — up from 2GW as initially proposed — and 2GW on the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, plus a 1GW offshore wind farm off Hesselø. The energy islands will act as hubs, connecting several offshore wind farms and distributing power to countries connected to them.

The Danish government also confirmed that technology-specific onshore wind and solar PV tenders would be held in 2020 and 2021, although how future rounds will be run is unclear.

It also postponed plans to reduce the number of Danish turbines from roughly 4,300 to 1,850 by 2030.

Industry body Wind Denmark described the plan as “beautiful, ambitious and visionary”, but called for a clearer timetable on the 6GW of new offshore wind capacity.

Feasibility studies are due to be held for the two energy islands in 2020-22, but the government has not yet provided a date for completion, or for the 1200MW Hesselø Hesselø (1200MW) OffshoreHesselø Bay, Denmark, Europe Click to see full details project.

It had previously said that excess power from the energy islands could be converted using Power-to-X technology to decarbonise sectors such as aviation and heavy transport.

Power could also be transmitted to neighbouring countries, the climate, energy and finance ministry suggested. One of the proposed energy island sites, Bornholm, is already connected to the Swedish grid.

Meanwhile, investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) claimed that the energy islands could be built without government funding due to investors’ interest in the project.

It stated that a consortium including three of the largest Danish pension and energy companies — Pension Danmark, PFA and SEAS-NVE — is ready to finance and operate the North Sea energy island. The investors would initially spend €50 million to develop the project.

CIP suggested that the energy islands could be built with existing technology.

Uncertainty remains post-2021

Wind Denmark said that the lack of visibility beyond 2021 for onshore wind tenders was “very regrettable”.

Technology-specific rounds are due to be held this year and next, with support capped at DKK 250/MWh (€33.52/MWh), with DKK 600 million in support payments made available. Similar funds will be put aside for technology-neutral tenders between 2022 and 2024, which would follow a contract for difference auction model, the energy ministry stated.

In last year's joint technology tender successful bids averaged DKK 15.40/MWh.

Extra decade for older onshore turbines

In the first part of its new climate plan, Denmark also backtracked on earlier proposals to limit the number of turbines in the country to 1,850 by 2030.

After a Danish Energy Agency report found that turbines’ operational life was longer than initially thought, the government pushed this turbine limit back to 2040.

Wind Denmark’s CEO Jan Hylleberg said: “A postponement that follows the new knowledge that the turbines are now expected to live significantly longer is healthy makes sense and sends a clear political signal that no means will be used to force the dismantling of well-functioning, yet undisturbed wind turbines.” Wind Denmark has called for the limit to be scrapped altogether.

The industry body also raised concerns about changes to how access to the grid is funded.

Currently, public taxes fund Denmark’s grid expansion. However, under the climate plan, this scheme would be scrapped and replaced by a system whereby owners of renewable projects would pay to use the grid from 2023.

A Wind Denmark spokesman told Windpower Monthly that the body is “extremely critical of this issue, and nobody knows if it holds in the EU court”.

The Danish energy ministry also included plans for phasing out individual oil and gas boilers and replacing them with heat pumps and green district heating. It also aims to provide more charging stations for electric vehicles and make energy efficiency improvements.

Denmark plans to source all of its electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2027, and to reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 from a 1990 baseline.

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