Fri Jul 27th, 2007 at 09:07:22 AM EST
If you have a more than passing familiarity with the Nordic countries, you might be aware of (at least) two Nordic island regions which are a bit peculiar (well, slightly more so than the rest of the Nordic region, at any rate): The Faroes and Åland. The two have a lot in common: far-reaching autonomy from its mainland (Denmark and Finland, respectively), a different majority-language than the mainland (Faroish and Swedish), special status in regards to the EU (the Faroes being completely outside of the union and Åland being outside of the EU tax area). They also have something else in common: increased reliance on renewable sources of energy.
Promoted by Colman - living on a medium sized island in the Atlantic I'm always interested in wave power.
In the middle of the northern Atlantic Ocean we have the Danish autonomous region of the Faroe Islands (or the Faroes, for short). About 90% of the Faroese energy demand is currently being cared for by oil and petrol, the end result being one of the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the world. Hopefully, that is about to change.
The Faroese company Sewave, a joint venture between the Faroese energy company SEV and the British company Wavegen, are planning on utilising wave power (according to a press release on the website of the Nordic Council). Currently utilisation of wave power is limited. The Scottish island of Islay is probably host to the first commercial wave power plant in the world, constructed by Wavegen in 2000. There's also a "wave farm" near Póvoa de Varzim in northern Portugal. The Faroes, being smack in the middle of an ocean, would be a prime candidate to harness the vast amount of energy that surrounds it. Following feasibility studies conducted in 2002 and 2003, the project went ahead with a proposed site for the wave power plant on the island of Vágar. The concept for the plant seem fairly novel: by building underground tunnels, the entire construction will be practically invisible (see this conceptual sketch), thus causing no "aesthetic damage" to its surroundings. The wave power plant is expected to be in use by 2010.
Meanwhile, in the north of the Baltic Sea, the small Finnish autonomous region of the Åland Islands (or just Åland) is increasingly utilising wind power (all the while construction of a nuclear power plant is in progress on the Finnish mainland). Currently, 16 wind turbines generate enough electricity to cover 7% of the electricity demand of Åland. That percentage will increase significantly within a short few months, as a small wind farm of six turbines is currently being constructed on four archipelago islands in the municipality of Lemland. Construction and operation of the wind farm is handled by the private company Ålands Vindenergi, who operates nine of the 16 wind turbines currently in use. The islands in question are leased from the government of Åland, and the whole project will cost about 15 million Euros.
When the six new wind turbines start functioning in September, 23% of Åland's electricity demands will be met by local wind power. That is just the beginning, as several other projects in various locations through-out Åland are in the planning stages. If they all come to fruition, 70% of the archipelago's electricity needs will be covered (according to an editorial in Tidningen Åland, a local newspaper). Currently, most of Åland's electricity is purchased from Sweden (which may sound counter-intuitive given Finnish sovereignty over Åland, but the main island is geographically closer to Sweden than the Finnish mainland).
The combined population of The Faroes and Åland are less than a 100,000; in the grand schemes things the efforts undertaken may be but a drop in the ocean. Nevertheless, I'd like to think its an encouraging sign of things to come.