Topic Area: Wind Power

Geographic Location: Denmark

Focal Question: Why has wind power been such a successful source of alternative energy in Denmark?

Sources: (1)




 Reviewer: Jessica Vogel, Colby College 08’



Investments in alternative energy sources have become an ever increasingly important practice for countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels and other natural resources facing substantial scarcity. In order to curb mounting dependence on foreign oil, the small Scandinavian country of Denmark began, in the late 1980s and early 90s, to push an active agenda aimed at implementing renewable and diverse energy sources. The attention being put toward sustainable energy was largely a means for ensuring environmentally conscience economic development. Their early investments in wind power technology quickly advanced the small nation into a world leadership position in the development of this technology. Denmark has now pioneered the growth of wind power since the 1970s and currently generates more wind power per head of the population than any other country in the world, with 5500 wind turbines and the two largest off-shore wind parks in the world.


In the beginning of the 1990s, the Danish Government established a 15 year plan for large-scale implementation of wind-generated electricity nationwide. A long term goal of 10% wind generated electricity was set for 2000. The country far exceeded that goal and today maintains 20% renewable energy use, a goal which larger countries such as the U.K. hope to achieve by 2020. Furthermore, while, Germany, Spain and the United States have installed more wind power capacity in scale, putting Denmark 4th in the world, Denmark has a substantially higher proportion of wind generated power per person than any other country in the world, with .88kW per person compared with .18kW in Germany who has the largest installed capacity of wind energy. 


Complementing their implementation goals, successful domestic turbine manufacturers have grown to be world leaders in the production of wind turbines. Furthermore, to maintain this installed equipment, a large service sector devoted to maintenance and repair of the existing turbines has developed. Despite its small size Denmark is host to 5 of the world's 10 largest wind turbine manufacturers, with their top three producing 50% of all turbines worldwide. Furthermore, all of the 5500 turbines operating in Denmark have been produced domestically.


Ultimately, an unrivaled efficiency advantage has accrued from creating and using a knowledge cluster where manufacturers, suppliers, research and educational institutions combine expertise, innovation and advancements in technology, and this advantage has provided the nation with an unmatched global competitive advantage . Their leadership in production of wind has created a healthy industry for which early investment has turned into a strong reputation and thus profitable returns. They produce 60 percent of the worlds wind turbines, 2/3 of which are exported.



One of the major problems with wind as an energy source is weather forecasting and the subsequent output variations throughout the year. The Danish turbine controllers have made a significant investment in wind forecasting technology to hopefully curb these uncertainties and better predict accurate weather forecasts in the next 10 to 15 years. However, much of the compensation for these issues has come from the network links between other countries to off-set periods of high demand.


For example the interlocking power grid linking Danish power production to their larger neighbors Germany, Sweden and Norway allows the country to balance demand and supply over time and also compensate for strong variations in seasonal demand and weather patterns. . Especially in the more isolated regions of western Denmark, the infrastructure from this grid has played a large role in successful large scale application of this energy source. Therefore, without the infrastructure already in place, the electricity generated by Danish wind sources alone would not be able to balance supply and demand for all time periods.


The country has earned a unique advantage in the wind power industry because they were largely first nation that committed to large scale application coupled with the development and knowledge of the technology. Therefore, cost-effective strategies from domestic production and technological control continue to position the nation atop the rest of the world in wind power use and production.


Their success is largely unmatched because of first-mover advantages. Considerably larger risks to wind power exist today, as there are likely no revolutionary technological developments in wind turbine technology on the horizon.


Ultimately, the small size of the population at just over 5 million facilitates such a strong per capita to power output ratio and the ‘cluster’ of manufacturing, implementation and technological development has proven to provide an unmatched level of cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency in the small country. Furthermore, the ability to link into the neighboring power grid of Germany, Sweden and Norway has allowed for the accommodation of peak variations in power generation due to shifts in wind. Therefore early and strong commitment to alternative energy continues to position Denmark with the highest level of renewable energy as a proportion of their total output compared with all other nations’ world wide.