Over the summer, I took this photograph while studying landscape architecture and urban design in Copenhagen. From the shoreline, I could see the offshore wind power farms that help fuel the city and to this American observer, Danish design appears to respond directly to the elements of landscape, culture, and social environment while meeting the demands of sustainability. As our move toward renewable energy and transparent sustainability has been slow or perhaps not as obvious, designers and decision makers in the United States have a lot to learn from cities like Copenhagen. For example, in 1997, Samso, an island off the coast of Copenhagen, won government funding to create a model community for renewable energy through a combination of wind, solar and geothermal and plant-based energy for heating. The island reached green independence in 2005 and Samso now generates more energy than it consumes. The island now sells the excess electricity back to the power company, bringing income to the island residents who own shares in the wind farms dotting their cost line and inland fields. And not only is it a model of how to become energy independent, Samso host’s visitors from other districts and countries to demonstrate the nuts and bolts of creating an economy. So why are our efforts so lackluster especially compared to Copenhagen which aims to be carbon neutral by 2025? One answer can be found in a recent NPR Story titled, “Tension From Utility Companies Casts A Shadow On Rooftop Solar Industry” which explains how the U.S. utility companies are raising prices on fees, lowering their purchasing rate for buying back KWh from energy producing customers and decreasing incentives for solar power installation. According to the utility companies, they’re currently losing money from home energy production however should that bottom-line reasoning put the kibosh on future green energy investment? Sadly, such short-term financial gain and speculation overlooks the potential profits they could reap from investing in their own clean energy, solar and wind farms. It’s certainly time for the U.S. to adopt a similarly rigorous carbon neutral policy that could provide a framework for companies and local utilities to take a longer view and assume some responsibility for their contribution to our changing climate. It’s better late than never.
“Tension From Utility Companies Casts A Shadow On Rooftop Solar Industry “ http://www.npr.org/2015/03/11/392375404/tension-from-utility-companies-casts-a-shadow-on-rooftop-solar-industry, “Green Energy Inpiration Off the Coast of Denmark” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/business/energy-environment/green-energy-inspiration-from-samso-denmark.html?_r=0