Smart Cities have Smart Backyards

Local politicians and urban planners know about the NIMBY (Not In MY Backyard) Syndrome:

  • Everybody wants to benefit from efficient urban infrastructure, such as waste water treatment, waste treatment, and Combined Heat and Power production (CHP).
  • Nobody wants to see, smell or listen to the plants, which are vital for these services. They should be located far away in the countryside in another municipality, and definitely not be located in one’s own backyard.

A view from the city centre to Amager and Amagerforbrænding

Most city authorities prefer not to have new CO2 emitting coal-fuelled power plants near the city, but appreciate electricity from coal-fuelled condensing plants far away. If cities will not host the last generation of coal-fuelled power plants in Europe, they will be situated far from cities and operate as inefficient condensing plants (45% efficiency) instead of efficient CHP plants (90% efficiency).

Many city authorities also refuse to process the waste in the city and thereby miss out on the opportunity of using all the energy potential.

According to the EU directive for Renewable Energy Sources (RES), the proposal for Energy Efficiency (EE) and according to the EU Energy Efficiency Plan 2011, Smart Cities are however, supposed to develop cost-effective smart grid infrastructure for electricity, heating and cooling.

Moreover renewable energy plants and CHP plants are supposed to be located near or in the cities in order to transfer renewable energy and surplus heat to the buildings. Thereby the buildings can be nearly zero carbon buildings in the most cost-effective way in accordance with the EU Directive for Energy Performance of Buildings. If we exploit these opportunities, there will be more resources for social welfare.

Seen from social sustainability perspective, smart sustainable cities should take care of their own infrastructure in their own backyards and not impose their waste and power plants on other municipalities.

But how do we improve public acceptance of large energy producing and waste processing plants? World class environmental protection standards are not enough; we need more.

Urban- and Architectural Design in Copenhagen

The solution is urban and architectural design to form a more socially sustainable city design.

In urban planning, the usage of the city districts in Copenhagen is regulated:

  • Most districts are for the citizens.
  • A few districts are for heavy industry and city infrastructure – let’s call them city backyards.

Such city design increases public acceptance of e.g. large CHP, waste-to-energy plants and peak boilers. They are almost the only visible installations, which indicates that more than 60 million m2 of the heated floor area in the Copenhagen Region is supplied with efficient heat from the integrated city-wide district heating system

Good architectural design will also increase public acceptance, and the plant in the backyard could be accepted as a natural part of the city skyline and even become a monument of the city. The minor budget increase following from good design can surely be justified compared with the alternatives.

In Copenhagen we have two good examples:

The Avedøre CHP Plant at Avedøre Holme was the first power plant in Denmark and maybe in the world which, in accordance with national energy legislation, was allocated at a new site – at a strategic location in order to serve the near-by heat market. The alternative would have been heat only boilers in the city and a low efficiency condensing plant far away and more long high voltage transmission lines to the city.

Avedøre CHP plant at Avedøre Holme

Please find more information from DongEnergy

and from Ramboll Power

The plant is located in the industrial area of Avedøre Holme in a suburb of Copenhagen. The district also hosts a slag deposit and a waste water treatment plant. Recently, also large wind turbines have been added.

Initially, there was some resistance from the local authorities and citizens, but as the architectural design of the building has turned the plant into a kind of monument, the acceptance has increased.

Another example is the waste-to-energy plant of Amagerforbrænding in the northern part of the island Amager. The site also include a coal-fuelled CHP plant, a biomass CHP plant, a waste water treatment plant, a sludge and biogas treatment plant, a geothermal plant, wind turbines and city gas production and storage facilities. The city district at Amager also allows space for wind turbines.

The city district at Amager also allows space for wind turbines

According to the proposal from the Danish architect, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, the roof of the Amagerforbrænding’s new waste-to-energy plant will be formed as a ski slope on a “Hill”. It seems that the Hill will be even more impressive than the roof of the opera house in Oslo.


Magic in Reykjavik

In Reykjavik the urban heating infrastructure is a one-pipe district heating system based on geothermal energy from a CHP plant in the mountains. The challenge has been to find an acceptable solution for the location of four large steel tanks for hot water storage on the top of a hill in the city.

With a little magic they have disappeared and turned into a “Pearl”.

The tanks are located in a circle and form part of the wall in a huge circular building, “The Pearl” used for exhibitions and trade. On the top there is a circulating restaurant offering a view of the city. The rest of the wall is glass and a fifth tank, which is hollow, hosting the Saga Museum.

More information about Design and Architecture

For more information about architectural design as a mean to integrate urban heating in the city environment, you can find interesting papers in issue no 3/2011 of the HotCool magazine on district heating and cooling from DBDH. Among the papers are more information about the Pearl and the Hill at Amagerforbrænding.




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