Qaqortoq is the largest city in Greenland. We arrive early Wednesday morning and after four days at sea, we get a friendly welcome from members of the Greenland energy supply company NUKISSIORFIIT. We had made intensive contact beforehand with the regional manager Lars Hoffmeyer and his chief engineer Michael Benjamin Christensen and are looking forward to meeting them. Michael seems especially happy to meet us. He worked at sea himself and spent 25 years in Mozambique and we have the feeling that the man has many an interesting tale to tell. We give them a tour of the “Dagmar Aaen” and they are both completely enthusiastic about the old lady.
The next day Michael arrives at the harbor in one of the company’s new electric vehicles. We get a first impression that the term energy transition is taken seriously here and that the employees are enthused about getting their energy from a clean source. Our first stop on our tour is Qaqortoq’s thermal power plant. There are three conventional diesel heating boilers installed here. This is not the most efficient way of producing heat but one can’t compare Greenland to Europe. Installing a coal-fired power station would not be worthwhile considering the size necessary and importing gas without a pipe line would make a complex harbor structure necessary. However the first electrode heating boiler with a capacity of one megawatt has been installed. With this it is possible to convert electricity from the nearby water power plant to heat. The hot water is distributed to the households in the city through thick insulated pipes. The advantage of such a district heating system is that the supply system can easily be converted for a renewable energy source.
We drove from the heating power plant to the company’s main office. There we meet up with Lars once again and have a look at the two old diesel motors each with a capacity of 1.6 megawatts. These were installed in 1990 but are now only used as a backup for the hydro power plant. This plant is about 70 km outside of the city and has a capacity of 7.6 megawatts.
In the future diesel will be replaced by a wind-solar-battery combined energy plant. A first pilot project has been installed in the nearby town Igaliku. There the first results have been positive until now. In the long Arctic winters the wind power station produces enough electricity and in the summer in combination with the photovoltaic system there is even more electricity produced than needed.
It is unfortunately not possible for us to visit the wind-solar combined power plant as this would cost us about three days. Because of the ice, the Dagmar would have to navigate through narrow fiords and use only reduced engine power. Our goal is in the high north and we lost a lot of time in Iceland. Therefore we are very thankful to Lars for explaining to us the energy supply system in Greenland and the details of the combined power plant in a short presentation. Greenland has been especially affected by climate change and the country strives to become a forerunner in terms of renewable energies. This is not that easy as the whole country is strongly dependent on the import of energy and the power grid extends over 70 islands. That means that there is no interconnected network which would help to make a balance between production and consumption. Through the consequent construction of a new hydro power plant in the last two decades, the share of hydro power in the electricity sector has risen to 67,5 percent. Together with wind- and photovoltaic systems there is about 70 percent renewable electricity production. Greenland wants to reach 100 percent by 2030. All together the share of renewable energies in primary energy consumption lies at about 20 percent and this is a higher figure than with us in Germany. This should rise to about 60 percent by 2030 and here as well, Greenland is well above this targeted figure.
We discuss the future of energy supply and the effects of climate change in Germany for a long time with Lars and Michael. This is so interesting, that we decide to continue on board. Michael gets some fresh fish and we throw the barbecue on. Right away we are joined by the crew of the neighboring ship, the Penduick VI. Éric Tabarly’s famous ship is now used by his daughter for the Elem’Terre”project. She is on board herself and brings artists together with water- and extreme sports enthusiasts. The evening ends up with a soccer match on the pier – an international sailing team versus the village youth. Greenland is not in the FIFA, but it is quite obvious who has more energy this evening.