Liam – March 4, 2019
When I was a kid, I had a calendar with pictures associated with the weather typical of each month. March, the month we’ve recently entered in very lion-like conditions, featured a brightly colored kite flying in high winds. Somehow, that image has stuck with me, and I always think of wind when February turns into March (however, it was still February when howling gales recently downed trees and power lines here in Chicago).
The mental image of wind brings to mind a topic I personally care a lot about: clean, renewable energy. It’s no surprise that the environmentally conscious Danes are leading the way. Thirty-nine percent of stationary electricity production in Denmark comes from wind power penetration. This is just one of the ways Danes demonstrate good stewardship of the earth.
I witnessed another example last summer when I made a visit to the Morton Arboretum with residents and staff from The Danish Home. While most of my weekdays are occupied with work, this was one trip I didn’t want to miss. I thought it was especially cool that The Danish Home saw fit to travel out to Lisle to see the troll exhibit that brought in the Arboretum’s highest attendance ever.
Danish artist Thomas Dambo’s massive trolls were all made from reclaimed wood, and the overall “message” was that the trolls were watching to make sure humans impress a friendly footprint upon the environment.
Two summers ago, Denmark’s most famous and beloved export, LEGO, drew the attention and recognition from the good folks at Guinness World Records. With hundreds of records already earned over the years, this one came from building the world’s Largest LEGO brick wind turbine. It took 600 hours to construct and used 146,251 bricks. It was assembled and unveiled in Liverpool, UK, with a crowd of school children looking on in wonder—unable to touch because this LEGO structure is no toy—and peaked at a height of just over 25 feet. Actual wind turbines stand at a towering 655 feet.
The unveiling in Liverpool was significant because of LEGO Group’s 25 percent investment in the Burbo Bank Extension wind farm located off the coast of the English city, which opened almost two years ago. That farm provides clean power to some 230,000 British homes. Over the last seven years, LEGO has supported the development of more than 160 megawatts of renewable energy, according to the company’s website. It set a goal to balance 100 percent of its energy use with renewable energy, and it is doing just that. More, really. In 2016, the company used more than 360 gigawatt hours of energy to power its stores and offices throughout the world as well as its global factories, which churned out over 75 billion bricks. (1 megawatt = .003 gigawatts.)
But this wasn’t just a self-congratulatory stunt. The LEGO Group is obviously invested in children, considering that it makes toys, despite how many of my friends in their 30s and 40s spend thousands of dollars each year on LEGO sets for themselves. The company is also part of RE100, an organization that brings together influential companies committed to powering the world with 100 percent renewable energy. The record-setting, not-a-toy LEGO wind turbine was used to instill in children the importance of clean and renewable energy and encourage them to think about how they can impact the environment in a positive way.
“We see children as our role models, and as we take action in reducing our environmental impact as a company, we will also continue to work to inspire children around the world by engaging them in environmental and social issues,” said LEGO Group CEO Bali Padda.
The inspiring wind turbine lives permanently at the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, UK. It’s safe to assume that it will remain off limits to touching, but LEGO has already found a way to literally get the excitement of renewable energy into kids’ hands. Being one of those aforementioned 30-somethings still fascinated by LEGOs, I bought the wind turbine set for myself.
I’ve almost completed it, save for the final touches, and something tells me it might replace the kite image I’ve had in my mind all these years when I think of March.