From stormy to breezy: 10 years of developing wind power at Test Centre Østerild

The clash between people, nature, and technology can create challenges and friction. But a forest in Thy is proof that both nature, local communities and private companies can come out on top when creating the technologies of the future.

The test centre in located in Østerild Klitplantage along a five kilometer gravel road. Foto: Troels Friis Pedersen.
Test Centre Østerild is one of very few places where you can get within arms reach of the massive offshore wind turbines. Photo: Joachim Ladefoged

Claus Rasmussen, Chief Consultant, Danish Nature Agency Thy

How did the locals react to the plans for Østerild Test Centre?

I got a lot of angry phone calls at the time. Not many locals thought that it was a good idea. When one man supported the project at a public forum, he was almost booed out of the room.

What was that resistance based on? 

The forest that we had to cut down meant a lot to the locals, because it was their fathers and grandfathers who dug the ditches and planted the trees. And when you go out and change what people know and are used to, it hurts them.

How do they feel about the test centre today?

Today, I find that people tell to me that "that's what I've been saying all along, Claus, it's turned out really well". Generally people are much more supportive now.

What impact has the establishment of the centre had on nature in the surrounding area?

Our intention has always been that we want to recreate the original natural landscape, and in that we have succeeded. Today there are far fewer trees and more open areas. This has meant there is a habitat for more species than the forest that we cleared provided. There is more flora and fauna in general. Fungi and larvae and insects. You name it.

But this is also something that takes a really long time, so you might say that we’re only really halfway at this stage. But we can already see some really positive trends.

The centre was expanded in 2019 and now fits nine wind turbines at a time Photo: Fredrik Clement

Morten Pilgaard Rasmussen, Offshore Head of Technology, Siemens Gamesa

Why is Østerild Test Centre a good place to test your wind turbines?

The wind conditions are highly predictable and the wind at the site is like what you get at sea because of how flat the area is. It is crucial that we are able to measure against the same elements we would expect to find at sea.

What do you think about this setup where DTU runs the centre and Siemens among other rent space in the site?

We're fierce competitors, but we actually have a great relationship with Vestas, which is partly facilitated by DTU. If one company needs to stop the other turbines for a particular test, we'll agree on a time for that. We accommodate each other and that's a plus for the whole of the Danish wind-industry. 


Niels Jørgen Pedersen (V), Mayor, Thisted Municipality

What does the Østerild Test Centre mean to the municipality of Thisted?

In 2022 alone, we expect to receive 50,000 visitors to the Østerild Test Centre—to date this year we have already had 40,000. Some of those visitors might have come to Thy anyway, but some come here because of the test centre; that’s the first thing.

The second thing is that we live in an age with a tremendous interest in renewables and sustainability. So it really adds something to the identity of Thy locals that we have one of the best test centres in the world right here. It means a lot to us and it also means that we are noticed by others. 

The tallest turbine reaches 271 meters from the base to the tips of the wings. That's 17 meters taller than the pylons of The Great Belt Bridge.

Peter Hjuler Jensen, Deputy Head og Department, DTU Wind

What has Østerild Test Centre meant to the development of wind technology over the last 10 years?

Østerild has more than lived up to the high expectations that we and the industry had. Measurements carried out at the test centre are of great significance to the development of wind turbines by the industry and they provide a tangible input to our research, which also benefits the entire sector.

The test centre in Thy is of great importance if Denmark is to maintain its position as a global leader in the transition to renewable energy.


Anders Vedel, Chief Science Advisor, Vestas

How important is the Østerild Test Centre to your technological development?

Østerild plays a very central role in our testing activities. This is where we must bring our new wind turbines so that we can test, validate, and perform measurements on them.

It would in principle be possible to validate the power curve and grid performance of a wind turbine in a range of locations, but in most places it would take significantly longer—potentially two years instead of one.

Will it be equally important in 10 years time?

The developmental that has brought us to where we are today has depended on qualified tests, and that will remain the case in future. That means we need to find a location for a third testing site in Denmark. We cannot simply stop here and accept that it cannot be done even if its difficult. That will only lead to knowledge and jobs leaving Denmark.

Drone photo of Østerild Test Center
Turbines are routinely changed so new models can be tested. Photo: Rasmus Bække Rasborg.

Kristian Jensen, CEO of Green Power Denmark

How big is the need to expand testing capacity in Denmark?

There is a very high demand from the wind turbine industry for more test stands and the ability to test the next generation of taller, more efficient wind turbines. This means that it is crucial that we establish a third national test centre.

Should it be built according to the same model, meaning that the manufacturers would not own the test centre?

The model in place at Østerild Test Centre is one we should duplicate. This ensures that it is not only Vestas and Siemens Gamesa who are able to test and develop their technologies, but everyone across the industry.


Mai Manaa, Director of VisitThy

What impact has the Østerild Test Centre had on tourism in Thy?

Østerild is what we refer to in the tourism sector as a reason to go. It’s a place that people actually want to travel to because they want to experience it, find out more about it, and see it with their own eyes. Having a place that is a part of the experience economy puts Thy on the map, which is important. 

As far as I’m concerned, there is also even greater potential there. It could become our Legoland.

Is this interest felt beyond the visitor centre?

Yes - although it is still a significant exercise on our part. Say 100 visitors come to Østerild. If we do a really good job at telling them what else is going on in Thy, then perhaps 60-80 of those visitors will explore the area further. That will create both income and a sense of cohesion.