Saturday, May 6, 2017

Heating a Swedish City

The New York Times recently gave us readers a new columnist Bret Stephens who led off with three columns about energy that suggested that his first assignment was to tell us readers, some of whom know a bit about renewable energy, that the US had best stick with fossil fuel since renewable really is not up to the job.

What he revealed is that he does not know much about renewable energy. He asked us to pose questions, some of which he would answer. My question was simple. Bret why do you and the New York Times seem to believe that there are only two forms of renewable energy technology at present, solar and wind? No answer.

Exhibit A in my list was a statement that Swedish cities are heated by using a readily available fuel, solid-waste from which as much as possible plastic has been removed and in my city from which food waste is separated for conversion to biogas.

Times comments have no place for pictures so I went out to the Gärstad plant in Linköping, probably the most advanced such plant in the world, and took a picture. Here it is.
Two glass houses located at the Linköping North Exit to E4, car in photo headed west.
Gärstad plant, Tekniska verken, Linköping, Sweden
Imagine, no coal must be mined, no bedrock fracked to produce natural gas, no transport of coal, natural gas, or oil from far off places. Simply collect waste in the city, add forest-product waste at some of the incinerators and heat this city of 150,000 people.

What this means for me, an American as well as Swedish citizen, is that here in Sweden I am freed from the periodic failure of my American hot water heaters, always electric, and from the oil burners that were terrible. Also freed from the odor of oil, the danger of gas, and the giant oil tank in the cellar. 

Instead a small white box in the basement where the incoming hot water gives its heat to two systems, one the system feeding hot water to the radiators that heat the house, the other the system that sends hot water to bathrooms and kitchen. Completely silent, maintenance free, best I have ever experienced.