Wind energy: why Denmark matters | Economy | DW

It was a memorable day for Jesper Frost Rasmussen, on May 18, 2022, when the four Heads of Government and the President of the European Commission arrived in Esbjerg. Reason: you wanted to sign a strategic document on the development of offshore wind energy. By 2030, states want to build 65 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy in the North Sea, and by 2050 even 150 GW. A copy of this Esbjerg Declaration hangs in a frame in Rasmussen’s office. Signed by the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the Belgian and Dutch Prime Ministers Alexander de Croo and Marc Rutte.

Mayor of Esbjerg Jasper Frost

Rotor blades on wharves

Rasmussen is the mayor of Esbjerg and knows his city has a key role to play in these plans. Esbjerg is one of the few ports for the offshore wind industry in Europe. Industry giants such as Vestas and Siemens Gamesa ship wind turbines from here, while electricity producer Örsted supplies spare parts to around 25 offshore wind farms. These are gearboxes, generators and hubs weighing several tons.

There is room on the quays – also for meter-long propellers, which are stacked and waiting for departure. Without such an infrastructure, Europe’s dreams of flying high at sea would be nothing but a breeze.

Rotor blades for Siemens Gamesa wind turbines in the port of Esbjerg

Rotor blades for Siemens Gamesa wind turbines in the port of Esbjerg

On the other hand, there is silence in German ports. In Bremerhaven, there was a year-long dispute over the expansion to a seawall, in which the courts eventually became involved. Meanwhile, some industry companies such as Prokon, Senvion and Windreich went bankrupt. Not much is happening in other German ports either. Only from the much smaller Eemshaven in the Netherlands are the foundations for the spinning giants on the way.

“We get together”

Esbjerg left on time. For decades, the construction of oil and gas platforms in the North Sea has determined what was going on. Wind power is now taking control. Every ninth job in Esbjerg is directly dependent on wind energy: around 5,000 in total.

“We are all focused on wind energy,” said Mayor Rasmussen of the Danish Liberal Party. “As a city, we ensure that the industry gets the locations it needs.” Recently, the municipality decided to extend the port by 500,000 to 4.5 million square meters. Environmental organizations were also involved in the planning. “There was no objection on this matter.”

gigawatt hydrogen planes

Planning has been going on for a long time, specifically locations for the production of green hydrogen. As part of the ever-increasing amounts of wind energy that lands in Esbjerg via submarine cables is to be used for hydrogen electrolysis. Swiss developer H2Energy plans to build a 1 gigawatt (GW) electrolyser on the outskirts of the port by 2024, which will split water into its components, hydrogen and oxygen. It would be one of the largest in the world.

But that’s not all: Danish investment firm CIP wants to build another 1 GW power plant nearby, which will synthesize 600,000 tonnes of green fertilizer per year from hydrogen from wind farms.

Installation of a sea water heat pump

Installation of a sea water heat pump

The largest seawater heat pump in the world

Meanwhile, Christian Udby, CEO of the regional energy supplier DIN Forsyning, is already thinking about the next stage of recycling. “We want to use waste heat from electrolysers for district heating in the future.” The company must operate, because on April 1, 2023, the coal-fired power plant in the port, which previously provided the city with about half of the heat, is to be inactive.

It should take on a wide range of alternatives: in addition to biomass, first and foremost a seawater heat pump with a capacity of 50 megawatts (MW) built in the port. It would be the largest facility of this type in the world. In the future, it will take water from the port basin, collect heat and divert the water back to the North Sea some distance away. The technology is provided by German companies MAN and Volkswagen. The innovation will be commercially introduced for the first time in Denmark.

Only five years will pass from the idea to the launch. For comparison: in Hamburg, which also has ambitious plans to replace a coal-fired power plant, flow-through heat pumps have been a problem for a much longer time. However, it will be many years before it will be realized.

Leave a Comment