The Island of Social Innovation - Samso

Samsø, an island off the coast of Denmark, is the island of social innovation! Over the last ten years it has cut its carbon footprint by 140 percent by installing solar panels and wind-farms; it now has 11 onshore windmills, and another ten are off the coast. In 1997, Samsø was appointed Denmark’s renewable energy island, where the goal was to become self-sufficient in renewable energy and to create a window to show the world how it could be done.

Denmark has over 6,000 turbines (around 70 to 80 percent of them are owned by local groups) and has launched a renewable-energy social innovation revolution, making this island one of the world’s largest carbon neutral settlements. None of these renewable energy schemes have been created by external organisations or been funded by energy companies. Instead, each plant is owned either by a collective of local people or by an individual islander. It has been a process where the islanders have taken action into their own hands to show what can be done to alleviate climate damage while still maintaining a comfortable lifestyle.

Traditional fossil-fuel plants have been closed and dismantled as Samsø has undergone its social innovation transformation. There are wind turbines of various sizes and houses have solar-panelled roofs. The towns are linked to district heating systems that pump hot water to homes and are either powered by rows of solar panels covering entire fields, or by generators which burn straw from local farms, or by timber chips cut from the island's woods.

Previously, the islanders were reliant on nearly all their energy from oil and petrol brought in by tankers and coal-powered electricity transmitted to the island through a mainland cable link. They were once the producers of more than 45,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, which is about 11 tonnes per head. Now this energy relationship has been reversed and Samsø now exports millions of kilowatt hours of electricity from renewable energy sources to the rest of Denmark.

In 2011, carbon dioxide reached a record figure of 384 parts per million, a rise of around 35 per cent on levels that existed before the Industrial Revolution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that such changes could soon have a dramatic impact on the world's weather patterns. The Arctic sea ice is already shrinking at an alarmingly rate. Some scientists say the world has only a few years left to make serious carbon-output cuts before irreversible, devastating climate change occurs. Samsø shows the world what can be achieved for the future.

Photo Credit: Samsø Website

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