Copenhagen to Be the World's First Carbon-Neutral Capital; the Danes Are Spending Billions on Wind Turbines in the City and Have Found an Ingenious Way to Win over Its Citizens

By Braw, Elisabeth | Newsweek, August 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

Copenhagen to Be the World's First Carbon-Neutral Capital; the Danes Are Spending Billions on Wind Turbines in the City and Have Found an Ingenious Way to Win over Its Citizens


Braw, Elisabeth, Newsweek


Byline: Elisabeth Braw

While other countries debate whether to install wind turbines offshore or in remote areas, Denmark is building them right in its capital. Three windmills were recently inaugurated in a Copenhagen neighbourhood, and the city plans to add another 97.

"We've made a very ambitious commitment to make Copenhagen CO2-neutral by 2025," Frank Jensen, the mayor, says. "But going green isn't only a good thing. It's a must." The city's carbon-neutral plan, passed two years ago, will make Copenhagen the world's first zero-carbon capital.

With wind power making up 33% of Denmark's energy supply, the country already features plenty of wind turbines. Indeed, among the first sights greeting airborne visitors during the descent to Copenhagen's Kastrup airport is a string of sea-based wind towers. By 2020, the windswept country plans to get 50% of its energy from wind power.

Now turbines are migrating into the city and these ones will cost less than half the price of their sea-based siblings. "If there's space for wind turbines in cities, it should definitely be used," explains Brian Vad Mathiesen, professor of energy planning at Denmark's Aalborg University, where he directs the Sustainable Cities programme.

"Having the energy production closer makes it cheaper, and land-based turbines are the cheapest possible source of energy available today. Installing them also makes the residents more aware of their energy consumption."

Though considerably less charming than it was in its medieval incarnation, the humble windmill is enjoying a 21st-century renaissance. Last year, wind power capacity increased on every continent, according to industry association Global Wind Energy Council. In 2011 Port Rock, Missouri, with a population of 1,300 people, became the first American town to be powered by urban wind turbines, and other smaller urban installations have followed. Now, developers and home owners from Hamburg to New York have started adding rooftop wind turbines.

But no city comes close to Copenhagen's turbine ambitions and, in a recent poll, 89% of its residents supported the plan. "Windmills are a symbol of the new and clean Copenhagen," says resident Susanne Sayers. Fellow Copenhagen citizen Maria Andersen worries about the noise, explaining that she wouldn't want a wind turbine in her neighbourhood. While Copenhagen residents approve of the windmills, they're less willing to live close to one. …

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