Twenty years ago, Samso faced problems. Its farming and fishing industries were in decline, and its electricity and heating costs, mostly from diesel and coal, were rising. Its young people were leaving the island to attend high school and choosing not to return. In 1997, the island began a long-term transformation.
Samso won a government-sponsored contest to create a model community for renewable energy and, through a combination of wind and solar (for electricity) and geothermal and plant-based energy (for heating), the island reached green energy independence in 2005. That means Samso actually generates more power from renewable sources than it consumes over all. Attached by a power cable to the mainland 11 miles away, the island sells its excess electricity to the national utility, bringing income to the hundreds of residents who own shares in the island’s wind farms, both on land and at sea.
Samso has attracted global attention for its accomplishments. The Samso Energy Academy has spread their story and methods to international visitors. Denmark is also studying the use of renewables on Bornholm, an even more remote island than Samso, in the Baltic Sea, said Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the country’s minister of climate, energy and building.