Gedser Wind Turbine

Johannes Juul (1887-1969)
Energimuseet, Bjerringbro Se kort

By Charlotte Jul, skribent, editor and curator, 2006

Wind power

For many years, the Gedser Wind Turbine, situated in southeast Denmark, was the largest in the world. Johannes Juul designed the turbine in 1956-57, and to this day wind turbines are built according to largely the same principles - with the added bonus of modern technology, of course. When in 1975 the USA first embarked on wind energy research, NASA used the Gedser Wind Turbine as a model. 
The Gedser Wind Turbine became a symbol of Green Denmark, paving the way for the sustainable ‘windmill’ at the Tvind School Centre in west Denmark, among others. And the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturer is Vestas Wind Systems situated in Randers, also on west Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. The Danish network of wind producers, suppliers and specialists is unsurpassed in the world. Furthermore, the Gedser Wind Turbine proved extremely tenacious - remaining in operation for 11 years without problems. Today, parts of it are exhibited at the Electricity Museum near Bjerringbro. 

Beautiful design that makes a difference 

Wind turbines are magnificent! You may have seen them at the entrance to Ebeltoft, Jutland along the Amager shore, near Copenhagen or on fields scattered around Denmark. Their slim bodies and the large wings combine sculptural form and reliable function. Nature itself is the source of the sustainable energy produced by the non-polluting turbine. 20 per cent of Denmark’s electricity is supplied by wind turbines. Something to be proud of. 

Trade interaction 

Design and technology make a good industrial team. In the old days, the designer was not called in until the final product development phase. Today, designers and experts often work together during the entire development process - from idea to final product. This, combined with new knowledge, assures far better, more coherent solutions and significant results. 

Danish design helps 

Danish industry holds a leading position in the field of aids and appliances such as wheelchairs for children, pants with built-in girdle for ostomy patients and handy insulin pens for people with diabetes. These are all examples of Danish design created in a collaboration between designers and experts such as engineers, technicians, doctors and nurses. Talk about creative art that makes the world a better place! 

Gedser Wind Turbine, inaugurated in 1957. Foto: SEAS-NVE. Made available by Energimuseet.
Wind turbines have become a picture of Danish culture. Here is the fusion of wind turbines and another canon work, Lego. ©Lego Koncernen.

Did you know?

Source: Jytte Thorndahl: Gedsermøllen - den første moderne vindmølle, s. 76, Elmuseet, 2005.

The Wind Turbine got the nickname "Oliemøllen" by the local people. The reason was that the mill's chain case was leaky and therefore literally sprayed oil out over the farmers' fields. Several farmers each year received compensation for lost crops. If you were really unlucky, you got the oil tank on the newly washed laundry.

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Design and Arts, 2006

For many years, Denmark has been a leader in wind turbine technology, which is due in part to the early pioneering work carried out in the development of the Gedser wind turbine. In the 1950s, it was not yet clear that the main source of energy in Denmark would be fossil fuels. The country had not yet recovered from wartime rationing, and no one had imagined the enormous energy demands that would arise as a consequence of growth in the 1960s. 
Other countries invested heavily in hydro power, even the USA, which had a lot of oil at that time. It was logical, therefore, that Denmark, which did not yet know of the North Sea oil and natural gas reserves, tried to exploit the resource we have most of: wind.

The Gedser wind turbine moved beyond the traditional small folding sails and was the first large wind turbine that did not blow apart. It was the first step in a development that has led to a variety of turbine types in Denmark and abroad. The next step, at least symbolically, was the Tvind wind turbine, which came to represent the dream of sustainable energy consumption for a whole generation.
Designing wind turbines requires great knowledge of statics and wind, and shows how design can be a part of engineering when it is at its best. Wind turbines have quietly become a symbol of contemporary Denmark and a significant part of our culture that greets us as we enter Copenhagen and everywhere else in the country.


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