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From Turbines and Straw, Danish Self-Sufficiency

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the mmmm-danish dept.

Earth 183

chrnb writes "Last year, the Danish island of Samso (pronounced SOME-suh) completed a 10-year experiment to see whether it could become energy self-sufficient. The islanders, with generous amounts of aid from mainland Denmark, busily set themselves about erecting wind turbines, installing nonpolluting straw-burning furnaces to heat their sturdy brick houses and placing panels here and there to create electricity from the island's sparse sunshine. By their own accounts, the islanders have met the goal. For energy experts, the crucial measurement is called energy density, or the amount of energy produced per unit of area, and it should be at least 2 watts for every square meter, or 11 square feet. 'We just met it,' said Soren Hermansen, the director of the local Energy Academy, a former farmer who is a consultant to the islanders."

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All I can think is... (2, Funny)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701823)

Mmmm.... Danish....

And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702489)

My apologies to all non-Scandinavians out there, but you really don't have the background here to properly pronounce 'Samsø', regardless of what TFA or the summary says.

In English you have the vowels A, E, I, O, U and Y.

Danish adds another three independent vowels to that list: Æ, Ø and Å.

It is literally impossible to pronounce Samsø when using only sounds found in English. In fact Danish children are known to dare foreigners try and pronounce 'Rødgrød med fløde' - the name of an old fashioned Danish dessert. English speakers basically don't want to try, as that sentence neatly throws another few unique Danish pronunciation and language rules into the mix. :-)

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702505)

'Rødgrød med fløde' - basically you say it with your tongue loose like a rubber flap. Nothing to be proud of.

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (1)

Sri.Theo (983977) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702565)

Danish children? I had university lecturers try to get me to say that in Copenhagen.

I lived there for a year and still can't get that right... Strøget, is another pretty difficult one for such a short word.

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702799)

To make matters worse even the five English vowels have different pronunciations in Danish, and the distinction between E and I is very subtle, and can be hard for an English speaker to reproduce. In general Danish pronunciations can be quite hard for an English speaker. When I was living there I found it far easier to read and write Danish than to speak it. It did not help that essentially every adult under the age of about 50 is fluent in English, so when I tried to practice speaking Danish they tended to just switch to English.

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (2, Interesting)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702801)

My apologies to Scandinavians who confuse orthography with phonology, but you're wrong. Easy enough to make this sort of mistake, since the written representations of your languages are almost completely phonetic, whereas written English is anything but -- please refer to photi [urbandictionary.com] for a rather extreme example. :)

I'm a native English speaker with a fair command of German and Spanish, and I can get by in Swedish (have been living in Stockholm for 2+ years now). Having been born in the Southeast US, grown up in the US Midwest, worked for a British publisher, and lived for many years in Australia, I also have rather more than a passing familiarity with several major different English dialects. Linguistics and phonology are lifelong interests of mine, backed by some university-level studies as well.

One thing that a lot of non-natives (such as you, apparently) fail to realise is this:

(a) English has only 5 letters representing vowels*.

(b) This has absolutely nothing to do with the number of English vowel sounds, of which there are about 20. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] lists only 13, which might be true of US "NBC Handbook" English, but this is definitely well short of the mark when you account for British, Canadian, US Southern, Australian, etc.

Just because we lack a Ø (Danish, Norwegian) or Ö (Swedish, German) character does not mean that we don't have or can't pronounce the sound. The "ou" in could or should comes quite close. If I show a Swede the letter sequence KÖD and ask him to say it aloud, my English ear will inform me that he's just said the word "should". (Not "could"; the high vowel makes the "k" soft.)

Native English speakers also have absolutely no trouble with Æ / Ä ("a" in bad, as pronounced by 90% of Americans) or Å (the "ore" in more as pronounced by many Brits and most Aussies), once they are shown what sounds these signs are intended to represent.

...

And it is annoying as fuck to have a Scandinavian keyboard and yet be forced by this site (alone amongst all those that I visit) to use the HTML entity references for Ä, Å, Æ, Ö, etc. Can we get with the 1990s and adopt Unicode sometime before the end of the decade, please?

-----

*I do not include Y, and you shouldn't, either, when talking about English vowels, because most English speakers do not consider it a vowel -- it's used 90% of the time to represent the semivowel that other Germanic languages spell with J. Depending on where you go to school, you might be taught that it's "sometimes" a vowel, or that it's simply a consonant that gets pronounced like a short "I" when it sometimes accidentally gets stuck in between other consonants, for lack of having any "real" sound of its own. It is almost never pronounced as Scandinavian Y or German Ü because that vowel sound is seldom if ever used by the majority of English-speakers, regardless of country/region.

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (0, Flamebait)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702871)

And it is annoying as fuck to have a Scandinavian keyboard and yet be forced by this site (alone amongst all those that I visit) to use the HTML entity references for Ä, Å, Æ, Ö, etc. Can we get with the 1990s and adopt Unicode sometime before the end of the decade, please?

Please add Unicode support to slashcode or shut the fuck up.

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702993)

Hello, drinkpoo, I work for a major Open Source project and I already deal with my fair share of bugs reported by our users. The Slashcode devs can now kindly get up off their lazy arses and deal with theirs.

Meantime, please kindly go fuck yourself.

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (-1, Flamebait)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703121)

Hello, drinkpoo, I work for a major Open Source project and I already deal with my fair share of bugs reported by our users. The Slashcode devs can now kindly get up off their lazy arses and deal with theirs.

It's too bad it's not a bug. Slashdot is working as designed. We don't need those characters.

Adding unicode to slashcode is nontrivial because it is spaghetti. But since this is Taco's blog, it's really not important.

P.S. "Major open-source project" but you won't name it? Embarrassed much? Or would they be ashamed of you?

Meantime, please kindly go fuck yourself.

I'm not the one crying about "missing" functionality in slashcode but refusing to add it. If it's so easy, go forth and do it. If it isn't, then build a bridge, and get over yourself. Slashdot isn't your website, and from what I can tell, it would do fine without you. The only content-filled comment I've ever seen from you was your extended unicode whinge.

Re:And no, it isn't pronounced like that. (1)

emj (15659) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702919)

Just because we lack a Ø (Danish, Norwegian) or Ö (Swedish, German) character does not mean that we don't have or can't pronounce the sound. The "ou" in could or should comes quite close. If I show a Swede the letter sequence KÖD and ask him to say it aloud, my English ear will inform me that he's just said the word "should". (Not "could"; the high vowel makes the "k" soft.)

Native English speakers also have absolutely no trouble with Æ / Ä ("a" in bad, as pronounced by 90% of Americans) or Å (the "ore" in more as pronounced by many Brits and most Aussies), once they are shown what sounds these signs are intended to represent.

You might be right usually it's the 'A's that are hard to pronounce.. But I would like to know how hard it is to show how to pronounce ö.

For what it's worth taking on a dare to pronounce Danish sentences even as longtime linguist isn't that smart. Even though it's very unfair I've heard people here in Stockholm referring to danish not as a language but a throat disease, in a loving Scandinavian brotherhood kind of way (or a arrogant big brother kind of way you choose.)

Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701833)

"Nonpolluting straw-burning furnaces"? Given that wood-burning has a pollution profile as bad as coal burning (the exact amount of different pollutants in each case varying depending on pollution controls), I seriously doubt straw burning is all that clean.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29701837)

"Carbon Neutral" I imagine is what they meant (no, I haven't RTFA).

They grow the straw, then burn it, then grow it again, etc. So the carbon that's released from burning gets fixed again when the next crop comes up.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701875)

Even if that's what they mean:

1) Other pollutants are very relevant as well, esp. in terms of human and wildlife health.
2) Other pollutants have a profound effect on climate as well. For example, carbon black has been shown to be a significant cause of global warming.
3) I'd *imagine* that straw has a pretty good ratio of fossil fuels in -> energy out, but there still is going to be some input.
4) Land use changes can have a profound impact on global climate, and using land for growing crops for heating (capturing only a small fraction of the light that hits the land as energy) means a *lot* of land. It also means consuming land for farming that would otherwise be wildlife habitat. And there's the whole water issue. And the runoff issue. And so forth.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701937)

3) I'd *imagine* that straw has a pretty good ratio of fossil fuels in -> energy out, but there still is going to be some input.

Why? If they're that determined to be self-sufficient, they can use horses instead of tractors on their farms. No need of fossil fuel at all if that's the way they go.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701971)

Yes, why don't we all go back to a middle age existence. We can enjoy their wonderful quality of life and have a planet carrying capacity a fraction of what we have now.

Why do people pine for this mythical "good old days" before all that pesky modern technology? Between starvation, plagues, and endless manual labor, pre-industrial life sucked.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702041)

Why do people pine for this mythical "good old days" before all that pesky modern technology?

I don't, and not just because if we did, I'd be dead. If you'll read my post (and the one I'm replying to) you'll see that the OP was assuming that the straw couldn't be produced, harvested and transported without the use of fossil fuel, and I was pointing out that his assumption just isn't true.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (2, Insightful)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702249)

You do realize they're doing this for heating and electricity, right? Not much middle-aged about that...

Not to mention that with a few more wind turbines or solar panels you could switch from horses to electric tractors or something like that :)

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29703149)

"You do realize they're doing this for heating and electricity, right? Not much middle-aged about that"

The straw was for heating, and I think they did have heating in the middle ages, mostly by burning stuff that grew nearby.

The electricity comes from wind turbines, I am not sure what they did when the wind wasn't blowing. Maybe it always blows there, like ND

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702411)

Planet carrying capacity ? You do realise that without fossil fuels, we are already way past the planets carrying capacity already. What with plastics, fertilizer, fuels for agricultural machinery and fuel for refrigeration and transport, we could not support as many people as we currently do. There is a growing trend in the UK to use vast plastic sheets over fields to bring on the crops faster. These sheets are not re-used. Baling machines use plastic to encase straw instead of natural twine. This plastic is not re-used. Chicken sheds use vast amounts of heat and light because it is all done inside huge sheds. The food processors and manufacturers have massive factories burning untold amounts of power to create products with subtle differences to their competitors, looking for any way to use every last scrap of material. This is efficient for them monetarily as they already have the materials, but the overall mechanical efficiency is pants.

I'd like to see the alternative proposals for providing all this stuff *without* dropping the planets carrying capacity.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702591)

> Yes, why don't we all go back to a middle age existence.

False dichotomy. Next!

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702911)

Why do people pine for this mythical "good old days" before all that pesky modern technology? Between starvation, plagues, and endless manual labor, pre-industrial life sucked.

Your comment is laughable on every level. People are still dying from starvation and plague, and medieval serfs worked less than you do. The only thing they were "missing" that we have is conspicuous consumption which does not make people happy. More money has been proven not to translate into more happiness. More food was produced per acre before the green revolution. On one hand, you have a choice of how you will live. On the other hand, society is structured to give you feelings of inadequacy if you are not keeping up with your neighbors; people will give you dirty looks all day if you live a simple life in the midst of people in the rat race. What we've given up to get to our modern life of video games and desperate housewives is community, and humans are pack animals.

Industrial life very much sucks, too. (I won't believe in a post-industrial age until we have true nanotechnology.) Cancer rates in England doubled during the first part of industrial revolution, and they moved up much faster than life expectancy. Our "modern" lifestyle comes at a cost, and it may turn out to be higher than we can bear.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702937)

People are still dying from starvation and plague

People are still dying from working 18 hours a day providing you with sneakers, computers, TV's, toys ....

fixed that for ya ...

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

astar (203020) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702923)

The parent is right on.

Energy density is not a bad measurement, but a minimum energy density for the world should be at about the energy density of the United States, for instance. Anyone know what that is?

Energy density has a better meaning. Consider that simply emperically, increased energy density in physical phenomena reveals new phenomena and generates new industrial processes. So we should reject solar power as a dead-end. Straw burning is simply insane. I hear there are about 100 promising novel approaches to fusion, that could all be tested out for a total of one or two hundred million dollars. Why has it not happened?

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (4, Insightful)

emilper (826945) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702059)

yes, horses and subsidies from the mainland, that's the secret for self-sufficiency on an island.

the straw exists anyway (2, Insightful)

CdBee (742846) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702099)

Straw is an agricultural waste-product which will either be fed to animals, burned or left to decompose (also creating CO2) - it also has a very short carbon cycle unlke burning fossil fuels

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702257)

They were burning the straw as waste already so the change is that they use the heat to do something useful.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (3, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701847)

To put the amount of pollution into perspective, here's [greenedmonton.ca] the particulate matter emissions from different types of home heating.

The uncertified wood stove puts out several *pounds* of fine particulate matter each day of winter operation. Even the proportionally clean pellet stove dwarfs the emissions from oil and gas heating.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (3, Informative)

MaXintosh (159753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701871)

But in many areas, PM 2.5 isn't a big issue. Definitely not in a windy area like this island. So long as the stacks are tall enough, air quality doesn't go down commensurately. It's only in places that form inversion layers, or places that are just otherwise calm that have PM 2.5 issues. Compared to other sources, though, the Straw is much better because a) I'm guessing it doesn't take as much energy to get there and b) is carbon neutral.

Or, that's my understanding of PM 2.5, anyhow. Fairbanks, AK has PM 2.5 issues due to its inversion layer and large number of wood stoves. So I've learnt what I've learnt from the happenings, here.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701957)

1. Wood pollution problems can happen anywhere, even at low population densities, and even without an inversion. Wood stoves pump out two to three orders of magnitude more particulate matter than oil and gas furnaces.
2. Inversions can happen anywhere -- for example, from warm fronts. They're more common in some areas, certainly (central Alaska being one of them), but everywhere gets them.
3. Very little energy is wasted in natural gas extraction and transportation compared to the energy in the fuel. The straw almost certainly takes a larger percent to grow, harvest, and transport.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (5, Informative)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702057)

except the natural gas is being depleted when used, the straw converts energy from the sun. gas is also carbon trapped millions of years ago, the carbon you burn from straw was absorbed that summer.

so yea it is the same in a superficial and meaningless sort of way.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702069)

The natural gas doesn't consume vast amounts of habitat per person, lead to massive dead zones near estuaries, or drain rivers of their water, either.

Switching from natural gas home heating to biomass is like trying to reduce your lighting bills by burning candles. Natural gas is an abundant, low-carbon fuel that has literally several orders of magnitude less air quality degradation than biomass. If you want to tackle global warming, it's coal that you need to fight, not natural gas.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (5, Informative)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702207)

The natural gas doesn't consume vast amounts of habitat per person, lead to massive dead zones near estuaries, or drain rivers of their water, either.

Obviously, you have never been to that island. There are no rivers, and DK usually gets enough rainfall that no artificial watering is necessary. And take a look at the landscape [google.com]. There will be plenty of surplus straw from a place like this. And transport? You could almost throw the bales of straw to the furnace. Besides, I presume the straw is burned at biggish plants, which (of course) have particle filters, leaving your concerns about those moot.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29703065)

Natural gas is good once it gets into the pipe to your home. But the wellhead doesn't do as well as you describe, at least with the new style horizontal drilling that is increasing gas stores. The "frac'ing" requires chemicals, water and frequently leads to polluted aquifers.(recently heard an author of a new book RE this on pbs - I had been thinking of allowing drilling on my farm, now, no thanks)

But coal is worse!

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (5, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701879)

"Nonpolluting straw-burning furnaces"? Given that wood-burning has a pollution profile as bad as coal burning (the exact amount of different pollutants in each case varying depending on pollution controls), I seriously doubt straw burning is all that clean.

You don't have to interpret this as "straw-burning furnaces, which by nature of burning straw, are clean...". What you could just as easily interpret is "straw-burning furances, which have been modified to burn cleanly..".

Wood can burn horribly, generating thick black plumes of carcinogenic smoke, for example, when it's too wet. However, under controlled environments, wood can burn *very* cleanly. Take a look at a pellet stove - basically a wood burning stove, with the wood pellets providing a much more optimal burning profile that produces dramatically fewer pollutants.

On the flip side, you can purposefully create smoke, and use it as fuel in an internal combustion engine. This is called "wood gassification" and it's being used right now to drive a truck across the country [impactlab.com]. The Mother Earth News (magazine) built one more than 25 years ago [motherearthnews.com] back when the memory of the 70's oil embargo was still fresh and painful.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701905)

A pellet stove still emits two orders of magnitude more PM than an oil or gas stove; see the above graphic.

Wood is dirty, dirty, dirty. And no, wood gas is not "smoke". Smoke is particulate matter. Wood gas is a toxic mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (4, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701945)

Another name for it is "water gas" and it was originally used in homes before natural gas became common. Sources of Carbon are heated with water to very high temperatures ~1000C and react to form CO,CO2,H2,CH4... The CO and hydrocarbons in the gas can be removed and further reacted with water to produce a mix of CO2 and H2. Or the mixture can be reacted in the presence of an Ni/Al catalyst to form hydrocarbons and water. New Zealand produces approximately 1/3 of its petrol in this fashion. The advantage to synthesizing "water gas" or "syn gas" as it is often called is that you can convert many Carbon sources to liquid or gaseous fuel and can strip out the more toxic chemicals normally found in coal and other Carbon sources. As conventional sources of petrol become less available, this process may account for a significant quantity of the liquid and gaseous fuel consumed in the world.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (3, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701981)

Indeed indeed. Too few people realize that you can *make* hydrocarbons, from almost any source of carbon. Just burn it with insufficient oxygen for full combustion, and you have your (pick a name): "wood gas", "town gas", "water gas", "coal gas", etc. The challenges are when you want to use biomass for that source of carbon. You can just mine or pump up fossil carbon sources. Growing fuel crops takes a ton of land (habitat), water, leads to runoff, and all sorts of other problems.

But, if we end up in that situation, we may not have a choice. Humans are not going to choose a stone-age existence. If it comes down to either doing actions with major adverse environmental consequences or tossing society in the gutter, humans can be counted on to choose the former every time.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702045)

major adverse environmental consequences or tossing society in the gutter, humans can be counted on to choose the former every time.

And when their crops stop growing and their faucets run black, they get the latter as a bonus!

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702231)

Gas-phase combustion is more efficient too, because you can use combined cycle combustion*. Gasification probably reduces that efficiency to moot anyway.

*You burn it in a turbine, getting energy out of it like a jet engine, and then you remove heat from the hot exhaust by raising steam, like a traditional power plant.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702341)

The New Zealand Synfuel plant stopped producing petrol many years ago. It cost too much. Refined petrol is cheaper to produce. They survived for a while selling the synthetic petrol for blending.

It is now a methonal production plant. (owned by Methanex) Methanol was an intermediate step in producing petrol, so the point that the parent was making about syn-gas "water gas" is still valid, just not for making petrol.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702495)

I thought Marsden Point refinery was just a typical refinery?(they make 70% of NZs petrol as well, not 30%, the remaining 30% is imported normally from either Australia, Singapore or one of the gulf states) I didnt think we made much syn gas at all.

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (3, Interesting)

olderphart (787517) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702077)

There's a critical difference.The straw enterprise is C02-neutral on an annualized basis. The carbon in the straw was C02 a year ago. And now it's C02 again, big deal.

There are hazardous substances associated with most every form of energy generation. There's U, Th, K40 and other radionuclides in a coal smokestack. The emissions from a coal plant would get a nuclear plant shut down instantly. There would be mass evacuations if enough radiation leaked from a nuclear plant to be comparable to the everyday background in Denver. And don't even get me started on the DHMO hazards associated with hydroelectric power. That stuff kills thousands in the US every year.

--
olderphart
"disjointed ramblings since - Get off my lawn!"

Re:Nonpolluting straw burning? (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703139)

Modern coal, wood and straw burning plants are all quite clean. If you see a polluting one, it is either from the 70's or before, or build with technology from that era. I guess countries with lax environmental laws will still allow such polluting power plants to be build, but Denmark's environmental laws are not lax.

"Energy Density"...? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29701845)

Does the island import energy or not? This "Energy Density" has the feel of weasel words...

Re:"Energy Density"...? (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702493)

If they're on the same grid as the mainland, there's no guarantee that they'll be using "the same electricity" as the stuff they're putting in (not that that makes any sense in any case).

Self sufficiency would just involve putting in as much as they're taking out. "Energy density" is just their way of measuring that, it being quite a tricky thing to measure over a 10 year period.

Re:"Energy Density"...? (1)

pohl (872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702545)

If one's goal was to make a particular patch of land self-sufficient in its energy needs, the amount of energy produced per unit area would be an important metric, would it not?

Samso? (5, Informative)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701955)

This being one of the few enclaves of the Internet where flagrant nitpickery is acceptable, let me say that it's "Samsø" and not "Samso".

Samsø is in fact carbon negative. The island produces more renewable energy than it consumes. That's a good way of summing it up and I'm surprised neither the slashdot summary not the NYT article point this out. It's easily more interesting than them burning straw.

But what I really came here to say is, they produce fantastic potatoes on Samsø. As far as I'm concerned, they could power their Hummers with liquified kittens if it keeps the (Samsø potato) spice flowing.

A Møøse once bit my sister (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701973)

No realli! She was Karving her initials on the møøse with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian møvies: "The Høt Hands of an Oslo Dentist", "Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Mølars of Horst Nordfink".

Re:Samso? (1, Funny)

mybecq (131456) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702013)

let me say that it's "Samsø" and not "Samso"

Take your fancy ISO characters back where they belong -- this is Slashdot, dang nab it, where ASCII is not just a good idea, It's the Law!



(Yes, blah blah blah ISO-8859-1 blah blah blah.)

Re:Samso? (1)

Hymer (856453) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702539)

"Take your fancy ISO characters..."

That will be "sexy UTF characters" for you, you insensitive clod.

Re:Samso? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702127)

I would add it's not only a question of type style. This is an example of several letters that native English speakers *think* are identical but actually mean something quite different - "okänd" as opposed to "ökänd", for example.

You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar. Except for the liquified kittens, of course.

Re:Samso? (5, Funny)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702237)

they could power their Hummers with liquified kittens

Sir, I find your ideas intriguing and I wish to invest in your startup.

Re:Samso? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702531)

Isn't that what you call a catalytic converter?

I doubt it (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702535)

Samsø is in fact carbon negative.

Even if their entire domestic energy usage is slightly carbon negative, that's only 20% of a person's energy footprint. The other 80% goes into manufacturing goods, transportation, commerce, communications, etc. That carbon footprint accrues simply because the people of Samsø are Danish citizens and participating in the Danish economy.

So, it's unlikely that they are "carbon negative". Furthermore, they probably compensate for some of the inconveniences by externalizing energy usage--saving energy on their island by consuming more energy remotely on the mainland. Overall, they may have reduced their actual carbon footprint 10-15% relative to the mainland, but it's unlikely that it is more than that.

Re:Samso? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702541)

Yes, all non-danes who have gone to denmark know how addicted to potatoes you guys are. Get treatment asap, kthnxbai.

Energy density my ass! (1)

Iffie (1410897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701985)

These metrics are a way to put a barrier up for the alternative energy business. Of course it is possible to generate all energy locally. The 1 dollar per watt myth does not count for coal fired power plants. If you win a race are you going to let an expert tell you your steps per second where under par?

Show me a good way to produce... (0)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701989)

... "panels here and there to create electricity" from straw and wind, and it would be a *major* break-trough!

I am not sure that running any kind of a modern semiconductor process can be done in "carbon-neutral" way, and undoubtly it could produce much more nasty stuff than CO2 in the process -- but YMMV.

Paul B.

For anyone who has bothered to read the article... (3, Funny)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 4 years ago | (#29701993)

the thing that should stand out the most is the part mentioning how someone uses cow milk to heat his house.

Re:For anyone who has bothered to read the article (2, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702959)

the thing that should stand out the most is the part mentioning how someone uses cow milk to heat his house.

That is funny, but if you've ever been around a dairy farm, it makes a lot of sense.

When you milk a couple hundred cows twice daily, each giving about 3 gallons, the resulting 1200 gallons per day of blood-warm milk contains quite a lot of heat. Not only that, if the milk is intended for human consumption, it has to be heated further in the pasteurization process, raising it to about 170 degrees F -- and then it is often chilled, especially if it's going to sit in the tank for more than a day or two before being picked up.

I worked a little on my uncle's dairy farm as a kid, and I remember the big stainless steel holding tank being almost hot to the touch, and that was when he was producing grade B milk which didn't have to be pasteurized. Over the course of the day the chillers would gradually get the temperature down into the 50s (IIRC), but the next milking would heat it right back up.

There's a huge amount of waste heat that could very easily be exploited for heating.

More information: (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29701995)

http://www.energiakademiet.dk/default_uk.asp

Pollution and Renewable energy are NOT the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702003)

They may be Energy self-sufficiant, they're definitely not pollution-free.

Even a Bad Solution that Really Works Now (0, Offtopic)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702029)

Is worth more than the shiny solution you're promised 2 years down the road. Most of the time, the shiny solution fails. Yeah that bunch of excel macros or bash scripts someone put together with duct tape and spit may not be pretty, but it gives you the answers you need NOW. And it doesn't matter how good the existing solution is, at some point some jackass will come in, barely look at it and think he can do better if he designed it from scratch. And that jackass will inevitably fail and quit or be fired and the next person will come in and look at the pile of crap he produced and think it would be better if he designed it from scratch. And three years down the line and 3 times the original estimated cost they will have nothing to show for their efforts and everyone will still be using the original system that worked.

So given this conundrum, how is it possible to engineer a system from scratch? Obviously it can be done, but it seems it's more by luck than any particular skill of the people involved. Truth be told the best solutions always seem to start small and grow into what they need.

One thing is always certain though, when those guys come in with the promises of the shiny system 2 years down the road... someone's going to make an awful lot of money one way or the other.

That's Odd... (2, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702035)

I'm pretty sure that's not the story I was posting to..

Re:That's Odd... (2, Funny)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702091)

That comment looks like it's the slashdot equivalent of a skeleton key. It commits itself to so little that it can probably earn you puzzled but appreciative moderation on any story.

First thing that comes to mind... (5, Interesting)

uuddlrlrab (1617237) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702063)

...is Capitol Hill's very own coal-fired power plant, [washingtonpost.com]. Sucker is still belching tons of pollutants without producing a watt of electricity, thank you very much Senators Byrd & McConnell. And take a look at all the other coal-fired plants [wikipedia.org] in the US. Awesome. Obviously, doing nothing is a bad idea. Even if what the Danes have pulled off isn't truly 100% clean & pollution free, could it possibly be as bad as what we have now?

Re:First thing that comes to mind... (0)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702251)

Even if what the Danes have pulled off isn't truly 100% clean & pollution free, could it possibly be as bad as what we have now?

The answer is "yes, of course".

Re:First thing that comes to mind... (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702351)

Sucker is still belching tons of pollutants without producing a watt of electricity

. . . and this "Sucker" you refer to is also known as "Congress?"

Re:First thing that comes to mind... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702467)

Sucker is still belching tons of pollutants without producing a watt of electricity

I read the story. It produces heat not electricity. Appropriate for Congress, and it is a valid thing for a coal burning plant to do.

Also, you mention "tons of pollutants"? Over what time frame? Are you counting carbon dioxide? I'll say already, that if you are, then you shouldn't be. The idea that everything is equally a pollutant and hence equally harmful is a particularly toxic environmental myth. Consider that a ton of "pollutant" could be a ton of carbon dioxide or a ton of botulin. The former gets sucked up by local plants that night, the latter if properly distributed could kill ever human on Earth.

Re:First thing that comes to mind... (1)

uuddlrlrab (1617237) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702597)

Because, as we all know, when you burn coal, you get botulinum (that's what you're looking for). CO2 is what you get when you leave food out. This [encycloped...matica.com] is [encycloped...matica.com] fact [encycloped...matica.com]. *Sigh* It was meant to be "tons" in the colloquial sense, not actual measurement, but if you want specifics, just look at the chart in the Wikipedia article (which is taken from the Federal Government's own report, incidentally) about the emissions. For 2002, that's 83 tons PM2.5, 129 NOx, 483 SO2, 84 PM10. In respective percentages for all pollution in the DC area, that's 65%, 10%, 20%, 46%. One plant. To provide heat. For maybe just a handful of buildings. 65% PERCENT. One can only reasonably assume that those numbers have continued since then more or less at the same levels since then, considering...

Residents of the Capitol Hill neighborhood interviewed the Architect of the Capitol about the plant in 2006. They were informed that the only way to optimizing the plant’s efficiency was to rebuild it. This however, requires an act of Congress.

...and I'm not aware of any such thing having happened just yet. So, simple multiplication gives us, as of the end of 2008 (for sake of simplicity, and leaving open any changes that might have started in 2009) 498 PM2.5, 387 NOx, 2898 SO2, 252 PM10. Again, still measuring in tons here. So, let's just stick with the coal plant. No harm there, right?

Re:First thing that comes to mind... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702839)

Yeah, something that took millions of years to create gets sucked up by local plants overnight after you burn it.

Three bean salad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702151)

Oh my god Im gonna poop!

There will be so much poop!

Oh my god the poop!

parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702243)

"Last year, the Danish island of Samso (pronounced SOME-suh) completed a 10-year experiment to see whether it could become energy self-sufficient. The islanders, with generous amounts of aid from mainland Denmark

Parse error. Receiving "generous amounts" of aid != self-sufficient. If the rest of Denmark attempts to follow them, who is going to generously give to Denmark?

And has an independent party verified that Samsa is actually carbon neutral or just faking it? Remember that in the brave, new world of carbon cap and trades, carbon fraud is going to be (if it isn't already, considering certain would-be, for profit, carbon sinks) a popular activity.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (5, Insightful)

Zumbs (1241138) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702375)

The recieved generous amounts of aid in order to investigate what it would take to become self-sufficient. This is similar to producing a prototype of a technology before putting it into mass production: The prototype is likely to be much more expensive to produce than one of the mass produced items. Why do one build a prototype? To see how well it works, discover problems and issues before it is put into mass production.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (1, Troll)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702425)

So what was the prototype? I just see an uneconomic mess of well-developed technologies. Subsidizing an expensive alternative isn't the same as a "prototype". It can be, I admit that. But I don't see the novelty here. Another qualm I have is whether this program is sustainable. It apparently depends to a great degree on locals burning their hay in an heating plant rather than leaving it on the field. That might lead to soil loss in the long run.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (0, Troll)

uuddlrlrab (1617237) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702683)

Let me spell it out for you, since the simple concept seems to escape you. The island wanted to see if they could change their Infrastructure [wikipedia.org], basically the way all'uhv that tharr 'lectrissty stuff was gettin' made, ah-hyuck! So they went an' asked the gonverme- govmer- gomerv- tha guys in charge, an' whatnot, fer sum money ta try outa' whole buncha new ideers. When they dun found one what warks an' all, they went an' bilt it! Ah-hyuck! Now that they dun figger'd out whatta'do an' whatall that don't make all that stinky smoke, thar gonna start bildin' it all over So thar it is! Gawrsh... Now I'm off to down a bottle of Ibuprofen. Could someone else please field the next potential Darwin Award nominee that starts spouting off rhetoric and trying to cloud the issue? Talking down to that level physically pains me.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702977)

I notice you ignored the point about the soil impact. Removing the straw from the fields rather than burning it in place is going to increase fertilization requirements.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702885)

It apparently depends to a great degree on locals burning their hay in an heating plant rather than leaving it on the field. That might lead to soil loss in the long run.

Topsoil-based fuels are always wrongheaded if they don't do something beneficial to the soil. It would probably make more sense to just grow native grasses, because they tend to feature nitrogen and phosphorus fixers.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702915)

We haven't been leaving the hay on the field for centuries, so I don't think it is going to be a problem, but tell me: How do you manage to talk out of your ass?

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702869)

"become self-sufficient."

Energy wise. They are not self-sufficient in terms of economy.

Your prototype idea is flawed. A prototype that works is sold and makes more money back to the company or person than was invested in it. This island receives aid from Denmark, which probably in turn receives aid from the EU or from carbon shifting policies that offload emissions to China.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (1)

Xarius (691264) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702727)

Denmark obviously thought it was worth investing in this experiment to see if the things tried worked and were viable long-term. I would expect the aid given was an initial investment and not an ongoing requirement for the sustainability--sort of like venture capital.

Re:parse error at "generous amounts of aid" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702749)

Otoh, energy self-sufficiency is not the same thing as financial self-sufficiency.
They showed it's technically feasable, not that they can pay for it themselves.
Then again there are individuals who can pay for this ten times over out of their own pocket.

SOME-suh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702253)

C'mon, these pronunciation hints are getting ridiculous. I'll consider them again when native English speakers can pronounce "grenouille" or ""Khrushchev" or "Brno" without any recognizable accent. We are all forced to use some kind of conventional transcription (if the alphabet is different) and pronunciation for about any language we can't speak.

The NYT is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702261)

A small point, but the reason it's pronounced "SOME-suh" is that it's spelt Samsø and not Samso. In Danish, ø means island.

Also, while I'm complaining, can we please have summaries that do not just copy and paste whole paragraphs from TFA.

It's a great accomplishment (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702283)

If a small island with little sunshine can become independent and carbon negative what's stopping the rest of us? I hear lots of arguments why it can't be done but like the health industry the real problem is far too many people are making money off the current system. Wind only works well with large towers in certain locations but everyone has sunlight, okay except Seattle. Europe has had grass pellet burners for years and wood pellets are getting popular in this country. There's nothing wrong with burning wood or grasses if you replant and you are in areas where it won't affect air quality. Coal plants hardly improve air quality and between the two I find wood smoke pleasant and coal acrid. We should already get a 1/3 of our power from renewable sources so it proves we aren't really trying. Large wind towers and solar cells can be installed faster than power plants can be built. There's plenty of non lumber quality wood for pellet stoves and the ones that can run on corn pellets make far better use of the corn than ethanol. Other than grinding and pressing them into pellets corn requires no processing. I love hearing about places like the island it just shows how far we have to go.

Imaginary self-sufficiency. (0, Redundant)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702707)

with generous amounts of aid from mainland Denmark

Doesn't sound very self-sufficient to me.
More like the mainland payed for some power generators that are now used by the island. Same as if they would simply buy energy from the mainland.

I would have given them more respect, if they would have been able to finance it themselves.

And WTF is it with that:

straw-burning furnaces to heat their sturdy brick houses

They could as well just dig for coal or use manure for those fires. Not very progressive...

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What is still unknown... (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703179)

Can the power generated by ONE windmill build, from raw materials, another windmill, assemble it, transport it into place and erect and maintain it. The EROEI / emergy figures on this are obscure and hard to find and deeply contested. The windpower industry says either "yes, over the lifetime of a windmill, it will vastly exceed that value" or they make excuses like "it doesn't matter for () reasons".

The bottom line is if it generates less energy over its lifetime than is required to mine the metals, refine them, cut them into parts, assemble it, transport, erect and maintain it, then the windmill is actually not a source of energy, but an energy sink.

Experiments like the Danish island in TFA are interesting exercises, but there is much more fundamental work to be done. Like ascertaining the true EROEI of wind power.

Personally, if windpower IS positive EROEI, I would cheerfully cover much of the urban landscape with the damn things - people complain about how ugly they are, but acres of hideous shopping malls, towers designed in brutalist architecture aesthetics, and decades of craptasitc cartoon suburban ranches don't seem to raise much ire... It's a big challenge, and it needs to be met NOW.

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