Denmark is destination for Maine energy student

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A college student from Cape Elizabeth will be going abroad for a program no one has ever participated in before.

Steven “Navi” Whitten, 24, will be one of 12 students going on a trip to the Samso Energy Academy in Denmark to study energy sustainability and renewal.

Whitten said students will be looking at several different things during their three-week stay on Samso Island, including Danish policy on renewable energy projects, technology of offshore wind, and biomass heating system for homes on the island.

“On Samso, for the most part, these people are all interested in being energy efficient,” Whitten said. “And that just boggled me that there’s a whole community of people that is on board with trying to become more sustainable.”

The College of the Atlantic partnered with the Island Institute to create the Fund for Maine Islands and this course, which will be split between the Samso Energy Academy on Samso Island, and COA. Students and faculty will be in Denmark from Sept. 14-Oct. 4, and will return to Maine to finish the course virtually and work on projects relating to renewable energy ideas they develop in Samso.

Whitten said there is a great need to move away from fossil fuels, particularly in Maine, where there is an abundance of petroleum use.

“As long as we use this system it’s kind of a sinking ship,” he said. “Things need to be regenerated, new grids need to be made, new energy systems need to be created in communities. People need to spread awareness about how much they’re consuming.”

He said in both Maine and the United States, there are niches of sustainability, but nothing that compares to Samso. He said he hopes the thing everyone takes away from the course is inspiration.

“I feel like that takes a little more than being by the books,” he said. “It takes dedication to the earth, of understanding that we can’t keep moving in the direction we’re moving and something has to change.”

Jay Friedlander, a professor at COA who will be teaching the course in Samso, said about 20 people, including faculty, would be going on the trip. He’s in Denmark now to work with other faculty at the Energy Academy to get the course up and running. 

“This is the first program that we’ve done like this and this is also for them the first program of this length of time with this many people,” Friedlander said. “So for everybody this is essentially its own start-up.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Steven Whitten, a student at the College of the Atlantic, at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. Whitten will study sustainable energy programs in Denmark through a new course offered by College of the Atlantic.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or