Wave energy in Europe – Denmark

Cork, IRL- After too long of a break since my introductory entry, I have written up a summary of how I see the state of ocean energy, specifically wave energy in Denmark. I visited three different cities, meeting with business leaders and groups in academia. After visiting countries such as Portugal and the UK, I feel like I have a better understanding of where Denmark fits into the overall picture of wave energy in Europe.


While it is hard to take the pulse of a country in the 4 days that I was there, I will do my best to give an overview of the Danish wave energy industry. After my travels to the Netherlands as well, it seems like these small countries have the expertise to wield the power of the ocean. Throughout their histories, the Danes and the Dutch have spent many centuries battling a formidable foe: the ocean. Previously, these countries were at the forefront of the shipbuilding and shipping industries.

Now, this expertise manifests itself in the form of numerous offshore turbines that can be seen from Copenhagen and Amsterdam. In talking with the companies and researchers in wave energy, it becomes apparent that the Danish believe that they will develop a successful wave energy device in the near future. They have already poured hundreds of millions of dollars of research funds and have spent over a decade looking at nearly 100 different designs. These have now been whittled down to only a few and are the stage of advanced funding. Wave Dragon believes that if they were to secure an investment of 40 million euros, they could build a full scale device that had a capacity of 7 MW and weighed 33,000 tons. Since this company has never built a full scale device before and thus has never subjected their design to the open ocean, it remains to be seen whether their device could actually survive. Currently their 1:7 model sits on a dock, looking fairly battered.


The 1:10 Wave Dragon model, which currently sits in a port 10 km south of Nissum Bredning. The device’s deflectors are not attached and cannot be seen in this picture.

Wave Star, on the other hand, has (seemingly) successfully completed trials in the sheltered inlet of Nissum Bredning and is looking forward to deploying a 1:2 model later this summer in a harsher wave climate on the northwestern coast of Denmark.


Walking to the Wave Star 1:10 device in Nissum Bredning, Denmark with Laurent Marquis, technical manager for Wave Star Energy. Of course, it is extremely unfair to show pictures of these devices side-by-side, since the Wave Dragon device survived 3-4 years of ocean testing as well. But I thought it was important to report on the current state of the technologies and the companies.

Denmark already has become a leader in renewable energy. Traveling around the countryside, I do not think I could drive for more than 10 minutes without seeing a wind turbine. A Wave Star employee claimed that at spot on a hill near the test site of Nissum Bredning you could count over 100 turbines. In most cases, these are not “wind farms” like we see here in the US. For the most part, they are single turbines that can be partly owned by the surrounding communities. A new law has just passed in Denmark that makes it mandatory for Danish wind energy developers to ask anyone who lives with in a 5 km radius of the proposed wind turbine if they would like part ownership of the turbine. By the end of 2009, Denmark should be generating over 25% of its electricity from wind, including a small portion from offshore wind (Danish Energy Authority, 2008). Denmark has become a hub for the manufacturing and production of wind turbines due to the presence of Siemens Wind Energy and Vestas Wind Systems. They hope to become a leader in the marine energy industry as well. Like the wind energy industry 30 years ago, the wave energy industry has dozens of different models for producing electricity. Once this industry “matures” and the technologies begin to converge, it will become easier to manufacture and export mass quantities of these devices.  
Unlike countries like Portugal, Ireland and Scotland, Denmark does not have a vast resource to harvest ocean energy. They do, however, have a significant coastline and will certainly benefit from developing marine energy technologies. It seems like their main goal in the near future, however, is to use their in-house expertise to become a mecca for manufacturing marine energy systems.

For more information on my project, please check out my site.

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I am finishing my undergraduate degree at Carleton College in Minnesota in physics and geology. I hope to study ocean/coastal engineering in grad school and pursue a career in marine renewables.

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