What do the towns and cities of Boraas, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; Dunkerque, France; Jiamusi, Heilongjiang, China; Krakow, Poland; and the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, US, have in common?
They all have exceptionally good district energy systems; good enough to win awards at the first Global District Energy Awards event held in Copenhagen in 2009. Two more Swedish cities: Enkoping and Gothenburg won awards in second event, held in Paris in 2011 – now the third event is due to be held in New York City later this month.
The bi-annual event is truly global in scope, organised by the International Energy Agency, the US-based International District Energy Association and Europe’s equivalent, Euroheat & Power. Cities and communities competing for an award this time include several from the usual suspect countries of northern Europe and Scandinavia, but there are also seven entries from cities in the US and one from Canada; one from Scotland, UK; and three from cities from the Middle East: Doha in Qatar, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Dubai, UAE.
Around half of the systems up for an award generate power as well as thermal energy – so this is not all about distributing steam and hot or chilled water to buildings.
Although Asia seems to be missing this year – surprisingly there are no entries from South Korea or China – the inclusion of schemes from the Middle East shows how district energy technology is expanding. Schemes in the Middle East predominantly supply district cooling, of course and, wherever they are located, the systems up for award this year demonstrate technological advances being made on a number of fronts.
Schemes in Slovenia, Finland, Denmark and Sweden all operate in trigeneration mode – supplying cooling energy as well as heat and electricity. As do schemes serving communities in New York; College Station, Texas; St Paul, Minnesota; and Stanford, California. The Qatar District Cooling Company operates largest plant in the world to supply the ‘Pearl’ artificial island development.
Fuels based on waste products and renewable sources are the other main area of innovation. The district heating system serving Bromölla in Sweden uses waste heat from a local pulp and paper plant, as well as biodiesel. The system serving St Paul includes both biomass and large-scale solar thermal technology. In Norway, the Drammen Fjernwarme system uses heat pumps. The Energicentralen system in Denmark is linked to a local aquifer for seasonal thermal storage purposes.
District energy is developing and expanding around the world – participants in New York will hear next week of what the event organisers are calling: ‘proven and innovative energy infrastructure solutions that future-proof our cities.’