today by car 30km
Transport carbon emissions for the day 6.03kg\CO2
I’m sat at the balcony of an apartment in the Hotel Strandtangen, overlooking Skive marina with a bottle of Tuborg and a slice of almond tart so disgustingly good that I’ve cut myself another slice before I’ve even finished the first. It has a mezzanine bedroom (and another one but I know where I’m sleeping) and Terence Conran wouldn’t turn his nose up at it.
Errrmm… they let me have it for the same price as a room? And from here I can see when the wooden ships start arriving so I can work up to the last minute, and it’s Saturday.
So this morning I met Niels and Jǿrgen outside the Town Hall, ‘the only building like this in the whole of Denmark – the whole of the EU’ and it very possibly is.
They take me into the basement of the town hall and show me the three biodiesel CHPs (25kW elec, 40kW thermal) which, combined with 273m2 of solar thermal collectors on the roof, does all of the heating and most of the electricity for the 5000m2 building. They also provide cooling, via an absorption cooler, for the server rooms and the politicians chambers (needed because they talk so much hot air presumably). They also have a heat pump which they use to create a 800m2 ice rink outside the post office between December and March. They have a 32,000 litre underground storage tank for rainwater which is used for toilet flushing, laundry and cleaning. This provides for more than half their water consumption. I ask about the vertical axis wind turbine on the roof and they laugh. ‘It’s a toy,’ says Niels ’the third one we’ve tried. The others were horizontal axis and were always looking for the wind. This one – it turns but it doesn’t give the output – they’re not for buildings.’ We look at the control panel and sure enough it’s putting out 410W, less than half of its1kW rating, despite the fact it is spinning furiously. The building is naturally ventilated (as are most new buildings in Denmark) with the central corridors on timers and the offices linked to CO2 sensors. It’s all controlled from the engineering office. People can modify their temperature by 2°C either way. ‘If they want more than that,’ says Jǿrgen ‘ they have to bring us coffee and cake!’.
Denmark has only got a feed in tariff this year, after us, since the first of June. And the tariff is only one for one, you get the same as you would pay if you bought it. This explains the lack of individual rooftop PV arrays. I ask about solar thermal but it seems that with the combination of district heat and technical problems with the systems ‘ OK they’re not rocket science but they can have a lot of problems. Drainback is good but it’s expensive’ people are put off. Also electricity is so costly that energy efficiency is always the first investment.
Up on the roof we look at the dry coolers and the one evaporative cooler, also run with rainwater.They clean it out every year and don't worry about legionella. They point out the site of the new five storey technik building where they plan to use ground source heat and an ORC plant to make electricity from heat (only requiring about 80 degrees apparently, refrigerant based, and coming in 10kW units. I’m unfamiliar with this as a concept – unless it’s got a different name). A large chimney is the local CHP running the town's district heating.
After they have finished showing me the town hall we drive to Skivehus School which has the biggest PV array in Denmark. Copenhagen had tried to claim this title but, they tell me, ‘Our boss waits to see how big theirs will be and then adds some more, so now this is the biggest’ And it is big -1700m2 with an addition 420m2 of solar thermal. After this Niels leaves us and Jǿrgen takes me on to Breum School. Until now he has seemed quiet but with the ebullient Niels gone he becomes more animated. Breum is a ‘typical’ school for the region he says although later admits that it’s not quite typical but a little better but that most of them will be like this within the next two years. It has a small (by comparison with the town hall) solar thermal array and a rapeseed oil plant.
The rapeseed oil plant is part of the ‘not typical’ school and is something they won’t replicate. If they installed this on all the schools they could quickly bottom out the local market for oil. I ask if there is legislation to stop them doing this but it seems it is an ethical decision. ‘It would be wrong, it’s not the way we’re raised’. I don’t pursue it. Bad enough that he thinks we’re stupid enough to air condition buildings and heat our conservatories before insulating our roofs without him thinking we’re plain evil. Nobody in Skive locks their bikes.
That reminds me of someone.
There is a plan, Jǿrgen says, whereby the heating main could be fed into by everyone. That everyone who wanted could have a CHP plant and feed in heat and electricity. I think of Werner and his ‘democratic energy’ and Emoeke, who asked Andreus from the Stadtwerk if he could imagine a time when people would all own the heating grid (he looked baffled and shook his head). ‘Is this being discussed now?’ I ask, thinking it’s a council strategy for energy. ‘Yes,’ he tells me’ we are discussing it - us four. We think we can make it happen’. I believe him. And I think the world needs more visionary engineers who aren’t afraid to take a chance.