Ski-park incinerator proves sustainability doesn't mean sacrifice

By Rachel England - 22 Feb 2011 8:58:0 GMT
Ski-park incinerator proves sustainability doesn't mean sacrifice

A waste management plant planned for Copenhagen in 2016 will generate enough heat and electricity for 140,000 homes and will have an added bonus - it'll be covered by an urban ski park.

The new plant will replace the existing 40 year old incinerator, taking waste from five municipalities in its area, and while their rubbish is being turned into power, residents and visitors can tackle the three ski slopes - graded by difficulty – that between them run nearly 5,000 feet.

As a further extra, the plant's smokestack will blow smoke rings every time it fills with 440 pounds of carbon dioxide from flue gas - showing marked progress in turning waste into energy. Bjarke Ingels, founder of the design firm Bjarke Ingels Group, the Danish architectural firm that won the competition to design the new plant, said in a recent interview that the smoke rings would turn ''the symbol of pollution into something playful,'' while reminding individuals of their impact on the planet.

''We try to look at some different approaches where sustainable cities and sustainable buildings actually increase the quality of life,'' Ingels said. ''We call this 'hedonistic sustainability'.''

Waste incineration plants are best sited in urban areas due to the heat they're able to produce, and so they are increasingly being designed as pieces of aesthetically-pleasing urban architecture in order to allay negativity from the public, but this plant will be the first of its kind in engaging the public in an activity. Construction is planned to start in 2012.

Waste-to-energy plants, which usually work by producing electricity through combustion, or by producing synthetic fuels like methane and ethanol, are widespread in Europe, but their use in the United States (US) is still low. Only 24 states recognise waste as a renewable energy source, and the relatively few 87 municipal waste power plants that do exist in the US generate less than one per cent of the country's power requirements.