Monday, January 29, 2007

Cooking with Oscar

Garbage in, garbage out? Sort of.

The twisted wire gates of the power plant facility provided a detailed look of the grounds. To my left, railroad containers were stacked like colourful LEGO blocks 5 rows across, 4 rows up, and about 15 in length. Height restrictions limit the steel stacks, yet almost 3000 of these boxes are spread on any available space. In the centre, the skyline is dominated by several stacks joined together like a multi barrel gatling gun, spewing the days thermal plume and CO2 into the fragile sky. The large building underneath held offices and several back-up boiler systems waiting for winter's frigid fingers to beckon them to life. So far, the temperature has been easy enough that the primary boiler systems can keep the local city warm.

A combined heat and power boiler is the main staple of the facility. Burning peat, a biomass substance found in swamp-like areas, produces electricity and heat for the sleepy city. This peat is transported by a train system delivering the raw materials in briquette form. Each "LEGO block" container holds about 20 tonnes of the stuff, sorted into stacks like old Christmas fruit cakes. The cakes (briquettes) are then crushed and fed into the hot hell of the furnace to produce steam for heating and electricity generation.

To complement this boiler system, the very innovative concept of garbage incineration for heat production decorates the right side of the grounds. Since all members of the European Union are obligated to find garbage incineration opportunities, a resurgence in garbage to energy concepts are growing. The plant, I toured, was built less than 5 years ago and it showed how smart design can make these things look beautiful. The system was rather easy, as garbage is dumped into a trough where a hungry claw transports it into the boiler. The hot flames consume the household wastes at 850 degrees, until it comes out the other end as clumps of sand and shards of metal. The flue gas heats up the water and converts it into low level steam and continues through a maze of incredible cleaning systems eventually ending out the stack. The emission levels from this plant are low, way below Sweden's environmental limits. Of course, this is due to the cleaning system which is quite a piece of work and, mind you, only accounts for a 1/3 of the plants total cost. Best yet, the fuel (garbage), is sold to the plant, meaning they receive cash for burning kitchen scraps and all.

One key item that impressed me the most, is the detail of education the owners of the system express. The new plant has posters explaining a point of interest within the plant as if we are touring some historical site. Each significant piece of equipment was easy to approach and to understand the role it played. The tour could have practically been self guided. I will also not forget, that our tour guide had each of us wear special wireless headphones, where he would speak into a microphone and we could hear him clearly over the rumbles of the power production equipment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need more
is very good

2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sound to me like there is hope for this planet. The latest research has shown that the damage to this planet is so great that will take centuries to fix it. Your words sound like a ray of hope in this dark tunnel...
NB: welcome back, I was missing your thoughts and reflexions...
Ramdom Thoughts

4:56 AM  

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