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10.24.07

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Photo courtesy Baltic Sea Solutions
Great Danes: The Danish island of Lolland gets 94 percent of its energy from wind. Lolland officials visit Santa Cruz next week to share ideas on climate-change solutions.

Santa Cruz to Sign Climate Pact with Lolland, Denmark

It's not as random or nuts as it sounds.

By Traci Hukill


When County Treasurer Fred Keeley made a personal visit to the Danish island of Lolland last spring, he was gobsmacked by its forward-thinking energy infrastructure. Once a shipbuilding center complemented by agriculture, Lolland had responded to the collapse of the local industry by converting facilities to the manufacture of giant windmill blades—some of them 60 meters long—and establishing itself as a kind of laboratory in Europe for climate-change solutions.Once down-at-the-heels, Lolland now generates all its own energy plus half again for sale, 94 percent of it from wind farms. Agricultural waste is burned to heat water that is piped to homes throughout the island. Methane from animal waste powers the sewage treatment facility, which treats wastewater minimally; wetlands cleanse it the rest of the way. As a bonus, 65 percent of the wind farms are community-owned, which keeps the money at home. In short, Lolland is a showcase for reducing carbon emissions—and for creatively reinventing a community after the loss of manufacturing jobs.

"I've seen it!" Keeley jokes. "I've been to the promised land!" Lolland's parallels with Santa Cruz—the reliance on agriculture, the blow to the local economy, and the potential to emerge as a regional thought leader on climate change—have attracted the interest of people on both sides of the Atlantic. This week, a delegation including Lolland Mayor Stig Vestergaard visits the area in what could be the first step toward a mutually profitable relationship.

"What they have to offer is a proven process and technologies," Keeley says. "What we've got is a market. What we've got is potential access to venture capital."

Attracting venture capital for clean technology, estimated at $3.5 billion next year, is a primary goal of the Climate Action Compact signed last month by city, county and university officials. During his Oct. 29-30 visit, Vestergaard and local officials will sign a similar Green Partnership Resolution. Among other things, the Danes are interested in learning more about organic farming; they'll be visiting Pinnacle Organics in Hollister.

Anders Muller, senior adviser on environmental affairs for Lolland-based Baltic Sea Solutions (which has a one-man office in Palo Alto), helped get the nascent partnership going. "These partnerships are very intangible when you start out," he says, adding that the unusual cross-border nature of the partnership is one of its strengths. "I think it's important to get ideas from outside. It also sends a good signal out to the capitals, that we're doing something."

And yet agreement between governments is just the start of the story. Elizabeth Thompson, manager of the Climate Solutions Program at Ecology Action, has been working with Muller to get some citizen exchanges going, "so it's not simply an agreement on paper between two communities, but that we find ways to build bridges on a lot of levels."


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