Denmark’s cleantech hub



The quiet, unassuming island of Lolland is at the centre of Denmark’s green transition and one of the world’s leading examples of “green regions.” Nikolaos Papadopoulos takes a closer look.


Picture: iStock


Known more as a summer destination than a renewable energy hub, Lolland has demonstrated exceptional innovativeness in green projects. Lolland’s economy revolved around the Nakskov shipyard, the region’s single largest workplace, and its rich agricultural sector; however, a recession during the 1970s and 80s led to the shipyard’s closure in 1987. This, along with radical mechanisation reforms in the agriculture industry, made a host of skilled workers redundant and left many unemployed. Apart from the financial consequences, the recession even led to differences in life expectancy compared to the rest of the country. Around that time, the decision was taken to adopt a new long-term focus for the island’s economy, building a new business structure on the ruins of the old shipyard economy while focusing on clean energy and the environment.


Fast forward to the present time, and the island’s efforts for economic and environmental reform have resulted in Lolland becoming a showcase example of a remote community standing up to environmental and social challenges while at the same time creating ample economic opportunities for its populace. Slowly but surely, through the years, Lolland has amassed a considerable amount of experience in planning and implementing green projects, and today, Lolland is home to a multitude of green and cleantech projects; the island stands as a shining beacon of clean technology even in a nation famed for its environmentally-focused approach to energy and industry.


"Lolland is where the world’s first offshore wind farm was installed, and it also is the place with the most turbines in Denmark."

Lolland is where the world’s first offshore wind farm was installed, and it also is the place with the most turbines in Denmark. Given the island’s small population, the region produces eight times more energy than needed to fully cover the total local consumption. The surplus of energy produced on the island led to an unprecedented experiment, where producers would get financial incentives to limit energy production. At the same time, consumers and businesses would be encouraged in the same way to use surplus energy.


Another pioneering project is the establishment of offshore algal farms, an idea that sprung up in 2009. A world-class group of scientists, economists and policy-makers were assembled at a workshop to explore and evaluate if offshore algae production is feasible, environmentally acceptable and cost-effective. The farms would produce algae that would be potentially converted into biofuel, further strengthening the country’s green drive. Yet that is not all. The list of existing projects on the island is extensive: wood chip-based heating plants, wave-energy plants, rape-seed oil plants, a planned bio-ethanol plant and more are paving the way for the region’s total green conversion.


Lolland’s innovation and green transition don’t stop there. At the beginning of 2021, the Danish government gave the green light to expand the country’s gas grid with a new pipeline in Lolland-Falster. This, along with the planned establishment of two biogas plants to support the pipeline, will create new jobs and ensure reductions in CO2 emissions by local industries.


"Situated only a few hours away from major cities like Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Berlin, Lolland’s position makes it ideal as a transportation hub for Northern and Central Europe."

Situated only a few hours away from major cities like Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Berlin, Lolland’s position makes it ideal as a transportation hub for Northern and Central Europe. The construction of the Fehmarn Belt Link will transform it into a crucial freight hub in the Nordics but will also play directly into the region’s green policies, as it will reduce pollutants emitted by drastically cutting down the time and distance it takes cargo and passengers to move to and from the continental mainland.


Central to these endeavours was establishing the unique Lolland Community Testing Facilities, effectively a forum between the private sector, research institutions, and local political authorities, providing an international testing and demonstration platform for renewable energy technology and products. With global climate change being acknowledged by more and more people around the world, Lolland’s enthusiasm for clean technology is sure to set an example that many would like to follow, both in Denmark and abroad.

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