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Ærø - a renewable energy island

Ærø is situated in the southern archipelago of Denmark, Northern Europe and has for the past 30 years worked actively to encourage the use of renewable sources. Today, over 55% of the island's total energy from solar, wind and biomass, and ultimately, the goal is that Aero will be self-supplied with renewable energy.

The period of pioneers
It all began at Aero Folk High School, who in autumn 1981 arranged a lecture series on renewable energy. Then arose a more informal study group where a group of interested people during the subsequent months eagerly discussed the feasibility of introducing renewable energy at Aero. The group, which consisted of local islanders (a blacksmith, a farmer, a few teachers, a bank manager and so forth) was later established as the Association Aero Energy and Environment Office, with more than 200 local support members.

It was not ideology that was in focus but practical solutions, and in 1983 the group established the company Aero Wind Energy with the objective to establish a wind farm on Aero. Despite petitions opposed the wind farm and a dull sales of shares in the beginning, Aeroe Wind Energy erected a windmill park in 1985, entrust the time the largest wind farm (11 turbines, each 55 kW) financed and owned by 128 local shareholders.

With the establishment of the wind farm came for real time in the development of renewable energy at Aero and the 80s was a period of the pionees where solar collectors were built in garages and local blacksmiths were trying to start up a wind turbine production.

Concurrently with windmill projects the group was also working to reorganize and expand the district heating production based on renewable energy. In 1989 the Ærøskøbing Energy Plant was established, a test and demonstration plant which would supply both electricity and heat based on straw, solar, heat pumps, wind turbines and flue gas condenser. How ever in 1992 the Energy Plant went bankrupt due to falling oil prices and was acquired by Ærøskøbing District Heating Company, who today supplies all distrcit heating in Ærøskøbing produced from 100% renewable energy sources from solar, straw and wood pellets.

Ærø - the Danish solar island
In the mid-nineties there was a serious time in the configuration of solar collectors, where especially Marstal District Heating Company took the lead and has continuously upgraded with solar panels and tested different storage techniques and today has over 18,000 m2 of solar panels installed.
In addition, there has the number of solar collectors has also been extended at Ærøskøbing district heating plant and a in 2002 a brand new small district heating plant was established in Rise, of course, also based on solar heating. Likewise, many individual houses today installed solar panels and overall it is estimated that there are currently nearly 28,000 m2 of solar panels on Aero, corresponding to approx. 4 m2 per capita.

Growing acceptace of RE
Throgh time there has been a growing acceptance of renewable energy among the islanders. Thus the growing acceptance of RE was made possible by the Danish Energy Agency, who until 2001 supported Ærø Energy and Environment Office to carry out campaigns and information concerning renewable energy and environment. They informed for instance owners of individually heated houses and arranged education among the local installers of small-scale equipment. This has forwarded the installation of boilers and solar heating systems in households.

In 1997/1998 the Danish island of Ærø took part in a competition to become the official Danish Renewable Energy Island (REI). Ærø was not chosen, but the island still decided to continue to work towards the goal of 80-100% supply of renewable energy

Today the island is participating in the project 100 communities for 100 % RE. In 2000 Ærø became the "Danish solar city 2000". In this case it is the whole island, which is the winner, and not only a single city. In 2001 the island of Ærø was chosen to win the competition Energy Globe 2001. In 2011 the local wind turbine cooperatives won the danish wind turbine price due to their work to ensure local anchoring of renewable energy ownership.

Future plans
The immediate objectives for the future development of renewable energy are:

  • Conversion of individual heat supply for heat pumps, biofuels and solar
  • Implementation of energy conservation in private homes and public buildings
  • Establishment of a biogas plant
  • Increased use of electric powered vehicles
  • Introduction of flexible electricity demand using surplus power from wind turbines for district heating

 » District heating

Ærø has 3 district heating plants at Ærø covering about 65 percent of all heat consumption. All district heating plants are based at 100% renewable energy sources as solar energy, biomass (straw and wood pellets) and bio-oil.

 » Wind turbines

The island has a total wind power capacity of 12 MW with an annual power generation of totally 40 GWh. This cover more than 120 percent of the total electricity consumption at Ærø.