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Wind power’s payoff in Denmark

It’s a global leader in the technology, and turbines are a common sight, but criticism and challenges persist

NYSTED, Denmark – Well beyond the entrance to the harbor in this remote village on the southeastern shores of Denmark, the array of wind turbines looms like a band of synchronized swimmers, giant arms spinning soundlessly as a gentle wind rakes the coast.

At the Rogeriet Restaurant on a recent September afternoon, Lars-Bo Hilker sits at an outdoor table sipping a beer and gazing off into the distance. He comes here once a week, he says, and the turbines have become a welcome fixture in the view, particularly considering the alternative. “It’s better than nuclear,” he says.

A block away, at the Nysted Sail Club, Jorgen Elgaard uses a four-letter word to express his opinion of the 72 turbines erected four years ago. At night, the red blinking lights atop the windmills turn the waterscape beyond the harbor into a disco, he says – and the power comes at a premium he thinks is too steep – in Europe a few cents more a kilowatt-hour. “You’ll get mad looking at all those red flashing lights,” Elgaard says.

As new initiatives in offshore wind power gain momentum around the globe, including the first in U.S. waters proposed off the coast of Long Island and in Asia, the situation in Denmark provides an insightful window into the potential as well as the challenges of powering up with wind. The 40 turbines proposed off Long Island’s South Shore by decade’s end pale in comparison to the two hundred that line the Danish coasts, and the thousands that span the countryside. But many of the arguments, for and against, are the same, if less fervently voiced here.


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