Published: June 28, 2023 By ,

This recap was written by Emily Cummins, a rising second-year Renewable and Sustainable Energy student. 

Each week throughout the semester, this class met to learn and discuss how countries and regions around the world are working towards decarbonization, or if they are working towards that goal at all. Students each tackled a different country, and presented research-based context and conclusions to educate their peers as to a specific country’s history of energy development and energy governance, energy sector structure, resource and workforce availability, energy prices, and outlook and planning on climate including just transition and participation in global treaties and movements.

To close out the course, the class spent 10 days in Denmark learning about its energy structure. Denmark is widely considered a leader in the global energy transition, due to its aggressive emission reduction goals and significant progress towards decarbonization. Students on the trip got an up-close look at the energy infrastructure in Denmark. 

Students got to visit Amager Bakke, or Copenhill, Copenhagen’s waste to energy facility.

This plant incinerates non-recycled waste from throughout Denmark and from other countries, supplying heat to Copenhagen’s district heating system and generating electricity. Students took a tour of this facility and learned about waste management in Copenhagen, and how waste can be part of a decarbonization strategy for the city and country. This facility is also working towards carbon capture, and was named World Building of the Year in 2021 at the World Architecture Festival. The side of the building has hiking trails, a rock wall and a ski slope. There is a bar at the top, which is open to the public, with views of the city and the sea.

Copenhill from the outside.

Students on a plant tour inside Copenhill, learning about how the facility plans to capture carbon from its exhaust.

Students on a plant tour within Copenhill.

Group picture at the top of Copenhill, with a view of the sea and many off-shore wind turbines in the background.

A ski slope along the down slope of the Copenhill building.

In Denmark, wind - both onshore and offshore - is a huge renewable resource, making up about 46.8% of its electricity supply. 

Denmark’s Port of Esbjerg is the world’s largest port for offshore wind activity.  Students traveled to Esbjerg and got a tour of the port from the port commissioner. Here, they gathered in front of this ship, which when complete, will install 180 meter off-shore wind turbines. 

Driving through the Port of Esbjerg, students saw hundreds of turbine parts ready for assembly, like these nacelles and blades.Students also had the opportunity to visit an off-shore wind farm, and were hosted by a member of the electric co-operative who owns and operates the farm. The group took a boat out to the wind farm, just off the coast of Copenhagen. There, they had the opportunity to climb onto one of the turbines, and actually all squeezed into the base of one of the turbines and climbed to the top. To get to the top of the turbine, students went up one at a time on a rung ladder, about 11 stories up. From the top, they could see the machinery inside of the turbine, and learned more about the history of electric co-ops in Denmark. 

The student group visited this off-shore wind farm, just off the coast of Copenhagen.

Students squeezed into the base of one off-shore wind turbine, and watched as their fellow students climbed to the very top.

Once at the top, students got to learn more about how the turbine works, and saw sweeping views of the sea.

Students also got to visit the the island of Samsø, considered the world’s first renewable energy island.

It is carbon negative and 100% of its energy investments are locally owned. The island has completely transformed its energy system and is powered entirely by offshore and onshore wind and uses biomass to heat its district heating loop. Biomass is used for heat and electricity throughout Denmark, supplying 11.2% of Denmark’s total electricity generation. Students visited Samsø, and learned about its biomass to heat operation. 

Here, they met with a representative from the Samsø Energy Academy, who explained how households on the island bought into the district heating system when it was first built, and how local farmers are paid for their leftover straw that ultimately gets incinerated to produce heat for the system.

Students had the opportunity to visit Danish Decommission, Denmark’s only nuclear waste receiving site.

Denmark has a long history of conducting nuclear research, but does not use nuclear for power generation. The group learned about the history of Danish contributions to nuclear science, and saw how Denmark manages and stores its spent radioactive material and high-level nuclear waste.

Students learned about the history of Danish nuclear science, and about its nuclear decommission plan.

Nuclear waste is stored in large containers that safely contain dangerous radioactivity. Students safely saw nuclear waste management up close. 

High level nuclear waste storage

Throughout the entirety of the trip, the students’ homebase was downtown Copenhagen.

The group immersed themselves in the people-oriented transportation infrastructure by riding bikes and taking the metro and train across the city.

Students rode their bikes all across the city. Biking is a big part of Danish culture and way of life. Students found that almost every street throughout the city had a raised bike lane and separate traffic lights for bikers, which made biking safe and easy.  Bike parking was easy to find all across the city.

Often when going across town or to another nearby city, students took the train or metro. The trains were efficient and ran on time. 

In addition to an up-close look at Denmark’s energy infrastructure, the class also had the opportunity to immerse themselves in Danish history and culture. 

The group took a trip to Kronborg Castle, believed to be the castle Shakespeare wrote about in Hamlet. 

From there, the group took an electric ferry to Helsingor, Sweden. This ferry’s battery gets charged for about 6 minutes every time it arrives back on the Denmark side of its voyage.

Students exploring Helsingor in their free time.

Back in Copenhagen, students had many opportunities to explore and learn about the city. 

Students explored the colorful canals of Nyhavn.

Students on a roller coaster at Tivoli, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, right in downtown Copenhagen.

Students swimming in the canals in Copenhagen. The water was clean, clear and cold!

One evening, a group of students chartered an electric boat for a sunset cruise through the canals. 

The group took a day trip to the Camp Adventure Treetop Experience, where they climbed a structure 40 meters high, and saw views of the surrounding nature and fields. 

The whole group before ascending to the top of the nature tower. 

View from the top of the tower - the class counted over 40 wind turbines from there.

On the way back to Copenhagen from the adventure tower, the group stopped at Stevns Klint, UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Baltic Sea. 

Students exploring the coastline below a church that is over 700 years old. Students found a CU hat on the beach.

They also took the opportunity to run into the frigid Baltic Sea!