Journey to the Center of the Earth

by Noah Hodgetts

My apologies for going a week without blogging – my laptop crashed at the conference on Tuesday, so my access to internet has been limited.

On Wednesday four members of our delegation: Rich, Taj, Ken, and myself had the privilege of visiting Samso, Soren Hermanson’s carbon negative island – a two-hour train ride and almost two-hour ferry ride west from Copenhagen. Although it was an exhausting four-hour journey each way, having the chance to see Samso in person was an awesome experience. Samso, unlike Mount Desert Island is accessible to land only by boat, but has a similar year round population of around 4,000 and is just slightly smaller than MDI.

Samso was able to become carbon negative in only 10 years partly because of Denmark’s Feed In Tariff which allows producers of wind energy to sell extra power back into the system for a profit. Soren’s efforts to make Samso the first carbon neutral and now negative island in Denmark had the benefit of only having to rally one municipality, rather than the four municipalities of Mount Desert Island – plus the National Park Service. All five entities would need to sign on to any effort to make MDI carbon neutral. Samso also had the benefit of receiving state funding, since the island won a Danish renewable energy competition.

Denmark maybe years ahead of the United States in mitigating climate change with its 6,000 plus wind turbines and 97% district heating throughout the country, but we share similar challenges and can learn several lessons from Samso. Most important is that we engage the community and stakeholders from all areas and make sure they are on board before proceeding with such an ambitious plan. Number two is that we need to emphasize that smaller is better in reducing energy consumption and transitioning to carbon neutrality. Number three is that it is possible to become carbon neutral/negative without reducing emissions from all sectors. Samso has offset island vehicular transport emissions from the surplus renewable energy produced by its 10 2.3 Mw offshore wind turbines (pictures coming soon).

Seeing Samso’s efforts first-hand has given me hope for trying to make Mount Desert Island carbon neutral and eventually carbon negative in the coming years!

I will be posting pictures from our visit to Samso in the coming hours. Check back soon.


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