Al fresco dining and winter sports aren’t necessarily the first things that spring to mind when you think about waste incineration, but one plant in Copenhagen appears to be bringing these three concepts together… and strangely enough, it seems to work.
According to the Guardian, the Amager Bakke incineration plant, designed by architecture company Bjarke Ingels Group, will also serve as a recreation space for the Danish capital, thanks to the artificial ski slope on the sloping roof of the building. A grassy area – also on the roof – provides the perfect spot for a picnic.
Not only that, people will also be able to take advantage of a climbing wall so they can climb to the top of the 80m building and enjoy incredible views over the city. As nice as this all sounds, it’s certainly an interesting juxtaposition with the purpose of the plant, which is to convert waste into electricity to feed Copenhagen’s district heating system.
What is interesting is the placement of waste-to-power plants such as these. While your first thought might be to position them as far from cities and people as possible, Copenhagen’s plants are right in the heart of the city. Why? As lord mayor of the metropolis Frank Jensen explains, “the central location of our combined heat and power plants is important because it minimises the length of transportation of district heating and thus the heat loss”.
Some 98 per cent of the heat demand of the capital is met by the city’s district heating system, so it certainly seems as though the Copenhagen model is one to replicate in other cities around the world. However, Philipp Rode of the London School of Economics’ cities programme is concerned about having these plants in such close proximity to cities, telling the news source: “In the end, these chimneys are still emitting something. We can’t really square the circle.”
However, the success of Denmark’s approach to decentralising its energy supply would suggest that other countries should take similar action. The recent Future of London report from University College London noted that 60 per cent of space and water heating in Denmark is provided through district heating. And in Copenhagen, this rises to 98 per cent, compared to one to two per cent in the UK as a whole, and around five per cent in London.
To help bolster district heating networks in the Danish city, electrical heating in new buildings was banned in 1988, a move made to ensure that energy suppliers’ earnings weren’t undermined by a lack of connected consumers. This, in turn, made sure that investments weren’t lost.
Of course, decentralisation in London will cost, with a London First report predicting a figure of around £7 billion – unsurprising given how much bigger London is than Copenhagen. However, the potential return on investment could certainly make it a worthwhile and attractive prospect for commercial lenders.
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