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EcoSense student project: Better utilization of wind power in Denmark

As part of their studies at AU Herning, three Business Development Engineer students have investigated how surplus energy from wind mills can be used to produce heat in a cost competitive way compared to existing technologies. Their conclusions are meant to serve as a foundation for further research in EcoSense.

2012.10.22 | Marianne Dammand Iversen

Jesper Riber Nielsen and his two fellow students Michael Jørgensen and Daniel Frøkjær from AU Herning conclude their findings of their B.Sc. project with a political eye-opener: the Danish power grid does not correlate with the political objective of a transition to green energy. At the same time, there is a lack of financial incentive for homeowners to switch to green energy.

Better utilisation of wind power

With the government’s 2020 plan of a transition to a green economy in Denmark as their point of departure, the purpose of the students’ project was to come up with a suggestion as to how the surplus energy from wind mills could be utilized and how cost competitive this surplus energy is compared to existing solutions such as oil and natural gas.

 - If we continue to build new wind mills, we will have a challenge on our hands in terms of what to do with all the produced energy. Wind energy is difficult to control and when there is a lot of wind, the mills produce a lot of energy. That is why we examined how we can make use of all this surplus energy, so that it will not go to waste, explains Jesper Riber Nielsen.

 - We did a technology feasibility screening of possible technologies and ended up with a technology which we named ”the hybrid heating solution”. It is an electric power cartridge which costs 8,000 DKK and which you install in the electric circuit together with an oil-fired boiler; a technology which is still found in many rural Danish homes. When the price of electric power, that is the price of wind energy, is lower than the oil price, the cartridge is turned on and otherwise the oil-fired boiler delivers heat to the house, Jesper Riber Nielsen continues.

In order to compare with an alternative, the students also did cost calculations for a heat pump, a technology growing in use amongst Danish homeowners.

Not possible to compete with the oil-fired boiler

The students came to the conclusion that without changes in Danish national policies, it will not be possible for surplus wind energy to compete with the oil-fired boiler by 2020.

 - We concluded that it will not be a cost-effective solution for the homeowners to use the surplus energy from wind mills at times with strong wind and thus a lot of wind power. This is due to the current system of taxes. It is simply cheaper to use oil than surplus wind energy, and this means that there is no financial incentive. In order to change this, we need a political decision to change the tax system, assesses Jesper Riber Nielsen.

Preliminary work

Jesper Riber Nielsen underlines that they have not had the resources available to conduct an in-depth analysis of the thesis, seeing as the project was part of their bachelor studies. For this reason, their findings are not to be interpreted as conclusive, but rather as a preliminary work.

 - Our analysis is not to be understood as a 100 % accurate recommendation for the politicians. On the contrary, our project is meant as a preliminary study which can be further explored in EcoSense, explains Jesper Riber Nielsen and continues: We feel that the findings should be followed up and we are available to go into more detail with our findings if there is interest.