Friday, May 29, 2015

Denmark's Folkecenter for Renewable Energy

Today we ventured along the western coast of Denmark, stopping at a number of fascinating attractions. Our last stop was the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, which displays many different sustainable ways of producing energy and methods for reducing energy consumption.
Today's adventures brought us up the western coast of Denmark in an all-day bus ride that carried us to several fascinating landmarks.

First, we stopped at Dead Man's Dunes, a location that memorialized British sailors killed on the Western shores of Denmark after their ships ran aground and broke up in the turbulent waters.

Ironically, they were on their way back from bombing Copenhagen in 1807. Despite the antagonistic nature of the British sailors, the Danes still gave them a proper burial and designated the dunes as a protected site.

According to some informational signs posted nearby, there are around 1,400 sailors buried in these dunes.

Students admiring the memorial
Students admiring the memorial.

Spencer at the dunes.

We hopped back on the bus and rode further north. We stopped at a place known as Rammedige, where you can see the remains of Viking ramparts that formerly stretched 2.5 km between two wetlands, defending an ancient road that passed through that area.

This meant that the Vikings who built the wall could better regulate the traffic on the road and defend their lands.

In addition to the ramparts, several burial mounds dot the landscape. According to the ever-knowledgeable Bo L√łkkegaard, there are more than 1,200 ancient burial mounds in Denmark, only a few of which have been excavated. The mounds are all protected by the government.

Our final stop of the day before settling in to our hotel in Aalborg was at the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, a non-profit that specializes in reducing dependence on fossil fuels by both cutting energy consumption and promoting the usage of sustainable energy sources.

The organization helps to develop new technology, spread information about current methods, and provides test facilities to outside organizations for their renewable generation methods.

The extensive campus had several interesting displays. First, there was a windmill "garden" containing all different types of windmills.

Many were new designs being tested for power generation, durability, and noise levels produced during operation. These were only small scale turbines, the types that might be installed by a homeowner or a business.

Approaching the windmills.

Different types of windmills
The windmills came in all shapes and sizes.

There was also a large fan that demonstrated the maximum windspeed at which an average windmill can operate, which is usually about 25 meters per second (56 miles per hour).

Wind speed demonstration
At these high wind speeds, I was able to lean into the wind without falling over!

We also saw a small shed that contained biofuel generators, which burned sustainable fuels to generate electricity and provide heat to the facility using a highly efficient combined heat and power system.

About 88 percent of the energy contained in their biofuel can be extracted using this method. This system only runs when other sources of power are not sufficient, which is primarily in the winter when heating demands increase.

Learning about the biofuel system
The group learning about the biofuel system.

There was also a solar power display that showed off two major types of solar energy. First, it showed a range of standard photovoltaic cells from around the world, including a highly efficient example from the U.S. that operates at 20.4 percent efficiency.

In addition to photovoltaics, it also had solar water heating units, which use heat from the sun to heat the water in a home.

Highly efficient photovoltaics
An American photovoltaic cell that operates at 20.4 percent efficiency.

Solar water heating
Our guide teaching us about solar water heating. Each of the tubes becomes extremely hot in the sun and heats a home's water supply.

The facility also had a geodesic biodome with a self-sustaining ecosystem that cultivated both fish and various leafy greens.

Our guide teaching us about the miniature ecosystem in the biodome.

Overall we learned a tremendous amount about the different ways in which we can cut our dependence on fossil fuels.

The Folkecenter for Renewable Energy was a source of inspiration for us and reminded us that when you get creative, you can optimize your sustainable energy production in order to minimize (or remove) your carbon footprint.

I won't speak for all of us, but I can say that this experience was motivation for me to work harder to find ways to cut energy consumption in my daily life.