Monday, 27 August 2012

Embracing the Wind Denmark's Recipe for a Model Democracy

Photo Gallery: The Secrets to Denmark's Success
Hailed as a "miracle of modern politics," Denmark consistently earns top marks for its efficient governance, innovation and transparency. Nowhere is this more apparent than with its successful embrace of wind power, making it a role model for the world.
Western democracies consider themselves to be efficient, farsighted and just -- in other words, prime examples of "good governance." But in recent years, the euro and debt crises, along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , have shattered faith in the reliability of Western institutions. Disconcerted Europeans are casting a worried eye at newly industrialized nations like China and Brazil . Can the West learn something from countries that for so long sought its advice? This is part III in a four-part series looking at how the world is governed today. For part I, on Brazil , click here. For part II, on the United States , click here. Check back for part IV, on China , next week.

The blades of the wind turbine are made of plain wood painted red, and they measure exactly 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) long. Their curved edges are only roughly sanded. Nothing seems to suggest that this unremarkable-looking device heralded the rise of a global corporation and the restructuring of an entire country.

"At the time, I found the thing in a dusty corner of the barn," says Henrik Stiesdal. "I still clearly recall how I held it in the wind for the first time."

His blue eyes gleam as if he were reliving the experience from 35 years ago, saying: "I suddenly felt this power and thought: That's just the ticket!"

Stiesdal jumps up from his chair, which he had been casually rocking on only a moment ago. He wants to leave his office on the first floor and show his visitors what has evolved from this red piece of wood. The 55-year-old technical director at Siemens Wind Power rushes toward a large production hall with its walls of black granite sparkling in the sun.

Once inside, everyone takes in the view of a vast production line, similar to the ones used in automotive plants. Here, though, workers are assembling white quadrants of steel that are as large as a small single-family dwelling. Stiesdal is still holding his red rotor blade, but it looks like a toy in comparison to the 400-metric-ton (880,000-pound) wind turbine behemoths moved here on air cushions. This is precisely the effect that Stiesdal is aiming for with his visitors: "They need to grasp the rapid development that the wind industry has experienced over the past 30 years," he says.
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