One European country can’t seem to stop breaking records when it comes to wind power.
In 2015, Denmark produced almost half of its electricity from wind power, breaking a world record for the most wind production ever recorded — a world record set last year, by Denmark.
The record 42 percent electricity generated from wind represents a three percent increase from the 39 percent it generated in 2014, which at the time broke the world record for the most electricity from wind production by a single country. According to the Danish national grid operator Energinet, this year’s number represents both the highest figure ever and the highest proportion of electricity from wind for any country.
Moreover, for 16 percent of the year, two Western regions in Denmark produced more electricity than the region’s residents consumed, leading to an electricity surplus. While it’s not unusual for wind power production to exceed consumption some of the time, the fact that it happened for such a significant period of time means that Denmark can sell surplus energy to consumers in Norway, Sweden, and Germany. Denmark also imports some hydroelectric power from Norway and solar energy from Germany.
Thanks to a particularly windy year, Denmark was able to set the record even without help from two large onshore wind farms. Had those wind farms been operational, Energinet estimates that wind production would have made up 43.5 percent of the country’s total power. On July 10, 2015 — an unusually windy day — Denmark produced 140 percent of its national electricity demand from wind power.
“Hopefully, Denmark can serve as an example to other countries that it is possible to have both ambitious green policies with a high proportion of wind energy and other renewables in the energy supply, and still have a high security of supply and competitive prices on electricity,” Danish minister for energy, utilities and climate Lars Christian Lilleholt told the Guardian.
Denmark has long been on the forefront of wind power, installing its first wind turbines during the oil shocks of the 1970s. The country has set several long-term goals to boost wind production, including pledging to obtain 30 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and be carbon-neutral by 2050. Denmark has also committed to lower its carbon emissions by 40 percent in 2020 compared to 1990 levels, though those commitments were scaled back slightly this summer, with government officials citing expense to Danish businesses.
So far, it appears as though Denmark is on a path to exceed many of these goals, especially with regard to renewable energy. The country’s 2015 baseline projection for energy estimates that the country will be able to obtain 40 percent of its total energy from renewables by 2020, far exceeding its original goal.
The last few years have been big ones for Europe’s renewable energy sector — in 2014, both the United Kingdom and Germany set records for electricity generated through wind power. Offshore wind also broke records in 2015, with a total of 584 electricity-generating turbines coming online across the Netherlands, the U.K., and Germany in the first half of the year. This past summer, France looked to get in on the growth by announcing a country-wide investment in wind energy.
Not all European countries look to be continuing their push toward renewable energy, however. In the United Kingdom, for instance, key wind-farm subsidies are set to expire this year as the government pivots to expand fracking and nuclear power.
In the United States, wind power continues to play a small role in the energy portfolio — in 2014, the United States got just 4.4 percent of its electricity from wind.