Scandinavian First Impressions

Asleep on the approach to Copenhagen, I heard an announcement from the airline pilot in Danish.  Barely conscious, I felt the plane lurch to the side and without warning, my head slammed into the window.

“Sorry for the turbulence folks,” apologized the pilot in flawless English.  “As I just mentioned, we are experiencing some heavy winds.”

With my face pressed against the window, I opened my eyes.  Across the expanse of water that separates Denmark from Sweden, I noticed what seemed to be large white flowers in the distance.  I quickly realized, they were not flowers – but wind turbines.

Wind turbines seen on approach to Copenhagen. Note that this image is clipped from the web; so no electronic devices were used inappropriately during landing.

Clean tech in Scandinavia is more than a passing fancy; it’s a way of life.  According to the Danish Energy Agency, 22% of the country’s electricity is generated by wind power, a number projected to increase to 32% in 2015.  By contrast, in the United States, approximately 2% of our electricity comes from wind.   Moreover, according to the inflight magazine on Scandinavian Airlines – the current Danish government has set a national policy of becoming entirely free of fossil fuels by 2050.  As it turns out, wind turbines can be found just about everywhere in Denmark (or so it seems), including the parking lot of my hotel.

Wind turbine in the parking lot of my hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark.

After a day in Copenhagen, I took a short train ride across the Oresund bridge to Malmo, Sweden, to begin the consulting abroad program in earnest.  Malmo represents the quintessential blend of old and new Europe.  The city has beautiful squares lined with Baroque buildings, yet the skyline is dominated by one of the most iconic European buildings of the 21st century, the “Turning Torso.”

Malmo’s iconic “Turning Turso”

Malmo experienced an economic renaissance in recent years, thanks in part; to a concerted government effort to support the clean tech industry in Southern Sweden (the opening of the Oresund bridge connecting the city with Copenhagen didn’t hurt either).   As a result, much like Denmark, clean tech permeates the culture here.  In fact, as a few of us walked the city our first afternoon in Sweden, we stumbled across the “Oresund Electric Car Rally.”  Much to our delight, the American-made Tesla Roadster garnered first place.

GWSB students pose by the Telsa Roadster, winner of the 2012 Oresund Electric Car Rally in Malmo, Sweden.

The next two weeks will involve a combination of client meetings, as well as site visits to multinational corporations and clean tech installations throughout Denmark and Sweden.  We will begin our trip in Southern Scandinavia in Malmo and Copenhagen, then make our way north to the industrial town of Vasteras (home of Swedish conglomerate ABB), and finish with four days in Stockholm.

Sweden CAP Itinerary Map

I can only hope to make as favorable of a first impression on our client, as Scandinavia has made on me…minus the minor head trauma, of course.


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