Energy-from-waste plant keeps Finnish city warm
High energy demand during long winters and tough environmental standards pose severe challenges for the city of Lahti’s energy company. That is why it is building one of the world’s most modern plants for converting waste into heat and electricity, with the support of the EIB.
Surrounded by vast forests, the city of Lahti shares an inland climate with eastern Finland’s picturesque and sparsely populated thousand lakes region. Cold winters with abundant snowfall make the area a prime location for winter sports.
At the same time, Lahti is a modern, prosperous city with a population of 100 000 situated an hour’s journey from the Greater Helsinki region. A centre for renewable energy research, Energon, forms the core of a strong environmental cluster. It is thus no surprise that municipal-owned Lahti Energy aims to provide a reliable supply of energy while continuously reducing emissions. What is more unusual is that, since the late 1990s, Lahti Energy has become an international centre of excellence in combined heat and power (CHP) technology. Conventional thermal plants release excess heat from the power-generating process into rivers, lakes or the atmosphere. The CHP process works differently. It makes productive use of the heat by pumping it into district heating networks, which are common in the Nordic countries.
On a bright September day, Lahti Energy took a further step in CHP technology and launched the world’s most advanced waste-driven CHP facility. “Finland is a world leader in CHP technology. About a third of all electricity is produced in such plants compared with 10 percent or less in Europe as a whole. And the city of Lahti is at the forefront,” Finnish state radio announced on the occasion.
Using waste from businesses and households in Lahti and Helsinki as fuel, the new facility will process 250 000 tons annually, generating 90 megawatts of heat and 50 megawatts of power. This is considerably more than in existing plants thanks to a new process of gasification and incineration at high temperatures and high steam pressure. The EIB is financing close to half the investment (EUR 75m) with the remainder being provided by the Nordic Investment Bank, the Finnish government and Lahti Energy.
“This is the world’s first energy-from-waste power station to operate with gasification technology,” said Lahti Energy’s managing director Janne Savelainen, adding that it will curb emissions by partially replacing a coal-fired plant and sharply reduce landfill disposal in the region. “The amount of waste needs to be reduced and recycling and reutilisation of material needs to be maximised. From the materials left over, it is in everyone’s interest to separate that part which can be burnt and use it as efficiently as possible in energy production, just like Lahti Energy does,” Savelainen said.
The Lahti project, which will be completed in 2012, is contributing to the Europe 2020 goals for smart sustainable and inclusive growth by supporting energy efficiency, waste reduction, cuts in CO2 emissions, R&D and innovation. Since 2007, the EIB has lent more than EUR 20bn to projects in the Baltic Sea Region, where it is by far the largest international long-term lender financing projects that range from broadband networks, wastewater treatment plants, bridges, tunnels, port facilities and energy projects to R&D and innovation.