They stand in a slight curve. Right in the middle of Øresund just off the coast of Copenhagen. 20 Bonus 2 MW wind turbines that together form Middelgrundens Offshore Wind Farm. For 20 years, they have been the unusual sight that visitors are greeted with upon entering Copenhagen by plane. A hallmark of that green frontrunner position that has been Denmark’s for decades.
In the following we have laid out the story of one off the world’s most iconic wind farms in short.
A community-owned pioneer project
A capacity of 40 MW might not sound like much today. But at its time Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm with its 20 turbines was the largest offshore farm in the world. The project was initiated in a collaboration between the Copenhagen Environment and Energy Office (CEEO), the local utility Copenhagen Energy (today HOFOR – Greater Copenhagen Utility, ed.) and Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative, which was an association of local wind turbine enthusiasts.
No fewer than 8,650 private individuals invested out of their own pockets in the project and became co-owners of the park. Today, Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative owns and runs the farm’s ten southern turbines, while HOFOR owns and runs the ten northern turbines. The project is to this day world renowned as a class example of how cooperative wind turbine projects can be a way of expanding the growth of renewables within the energy sector.
“100 years ago, the fort on Middelgrunden was built against external enemies. Now we are building wind turbines to give citizens a different kind of safety and security. Safety because their power supply comes from different sources, and security because the pollution is reduced.” CHAIRMAN OF MIDDELGRUNDEN WIND TURBINE COOPERATIVE LARS CHRISTIANSEN
When the construction contract of Middelgrunden was signed by 1999, the cooperatives chairman, Erik Christiansen, stated:
“100 years ago, the fort on Middelgrunden was built against external enemies. Now we are building wind turbines to give citizens a different kind of safety and security. Safety because their power supply comes from different sources, and security because the pollution is reduced.”
A hallmark in spite
On May 6th, 2001 Middelgrunden Wind Farm was officially inaugurated, and the story of the worlds largest and partly community-owned offshore wind farm went around the world. However, the journey prior to the construction of the farm was not problem free.
In fact, there were lots of protests in the process. Many of them concerned the location and visual expression of the farm. It was simply thought that the turbines would damage the appearance of the entry to Copenhagen. Nevertheless, the Municipality of Copenhagen was convinced that Middelgrunden would be an immediate success.
At the inauguration of Middelgrunden, then lord mayor Jens Kramer Mikkelsen almost prophetically stated:
“We have a lot of knowledge and experience gathered in the region of Øresund when it comes to the environment as well as many exciting suggestions on how to make a big city green. As a matter of fact, we want to inspire the world.”
And that is just what Middelgrunden has done for the past two decades: Not only has Middelgrunden due to its unique location become one of the most photographed offshore wind farms in the world, it has also been significant in establishing Denmark’s reputation as world leading within in the wind industry.
“Denmark is a green pioneer. When we as a delegation go out and look at, for example, wind turbines, is it my strong belief that many will be inspired by the Danish solutions and share their experiences back home.” FORMER MINISTER OF ENERGY, UTILITIES AND CLIMATE LARS CHRISTIAN LILLEHOLT
As recently as 2018, Middelgrunden was one of the stops for a delegation of global top executives in wind. Former Danish Minister of Energy, Utilities and Climate Lars Christian Lilleholt commented on Middelgrunden’s significance at the time:
“Denmark is a green pioneer. When we as a delegation go out and look at, for example, wind turbines, is it my strong belief that many will be inspired by the Danish solutions and share their experiences back home. It means something to see the good examples with your own eyes and not just hear about them – and we in Denmark have a unique showcase to show off.”
Operating lease until 2026
With only a few exceptions, Middelgrunden has been in constant operation since its erection, and to this day it still accounts for 3% of Copenhagens energy supply equivalent to 30,000 households. Nonetheless will the lease of the park run out by 2026, although plans are being made to repower the aging turbines. We will unfold the implications of repowering the iconic farm in the last and third chapter of Middelgrunden: A Danish offshore adventure.
- Middelgrunden was originally part of the Copenhagen Fortress.
- Middelgrunden is one of the world’s first offshore wind farms.
- The farm’s turbines are 105 meters high.
- Commissioned in 2001. Has been in almost continuous operation since the start-up.
- Produces energy annually for approximately 30,000 households, which corresponds to 3% of Copenhagen’s electricity consumption.
- The park consists of 20 Bonus/SWT-2.0-CS wind turbines.
- Annual energy production approximately 42,900 kWh.
- The current operating license expires in 2026.
- Has for 20 years provided important experience and knowledge to the wind turbine industry.