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The Danish electricity generating system prepared to adopt nuclear power in the 1970s, yet has become the world’s front runner in wind power with a national plan for 50% wind power penetration by 2020. This paper deploys a sociotechnical perspective to explain the historical transformation of “networks of power” via the interactions of politics, the techno-physics of electrons, and the market setting. The Danish case is about how an assemblage of new agencies has reorganized and reshaped society by building a new sociotechnical network. This has rendered developments highly unpredictable and highly experimental. The transformation process can be followed through the way successive technical engineering reports have represented the challenges associated with the penetration of wind power. The iteration shows how novel technical phenomena emerge and are assimilated, and how new engineering expertise evolves and contributes to the normalization and large-scale penetration of wind power in the electricity generating system. The analysis teaches us how technological paths become locked-in, but also indicates keys for locking them out.

Peter Karnøe is a professor, DIST, Center for Design, Innovation and Sustainable Transition, Department of Planning, Aalborg University.