26 Apr 2012

Medieval city builds a greener future

The city of Porvoo is one of the fastest growing smaller municipalities in southern Finland. By building a new biopower plant, the city's main energy supplier, Porvoon Energia, is upgrading its energy production to meet the growing demand, and concurrently taking the city into a greener future.

When entering Finland's second oldest city, Porvoo, from west by the main bridge crossing the city river, the stark contrast between old and new is the first thing one notices. On your left, an amazing view of the old, medieval town opens up, with old wooden houses and the white stone church from the 15th century dominating the scene. But looking to the right from the bridge, where the modern city centre takes over, one is instantly brought back to reality.

"Despite the medieval views known from the tourist brochures, Porvoo is a modern, rapidly growing city," says Patrick Wackström, CEO of Porvoon Energia. "The city has had a steady yearly population surplus since the early 1980s, and as the energy supplier we have to meet the demand of our customers, both households and industries."

Porvoon Energia is building a new biopower plant in Tolkkinen, about 10 kilometres west of the city. NIB is participating with a EUR 23 million loan to SEB Leasing Oy for the acquisition of construction equipment. The loan is allocated under the Bank's climate change and energy efficiency facility CLEERE, as the new plant will cut down on Porvoon Energia's use of natural gas and oil as power sources, and thus indirectly reduce CO2 emissions.

"When the new power plant is ready and in production, our share of renewable energy used for district heating will rise from the current 70% to at least 90%," says Mr Wackström. He adds that the construction work is proceeding according to schedule, expecting the new plant to be test run in October, and the commercial operation to start in early 2013. The new wood-fired power plant will generate 250 GWh of district heat and 78 GWh of electricity annually.

Mr Wackström explains that the priority expressed by the sole owner of the company, the City of Porvoo, is clear: Porvoon Energia is to produce energy that results in the smallest possible CO2 footprint for the city.

"We are investigating the possibility of adding solar power to our production, and thus reach a level of 100% renewable fuels in the energy produced for district heating. And with improved technology, the new power plant will result in a direct decrease of CO2 emissions, along with the indirect results of replacing fossil fuels with biofuels."

The new biopower plant will be fuelled mainly by wood chips and forest residuals supplied by local forest owners.

"The expected share of biofuel in our new plant is over 90%, and peat might be used as reserve fuel occasionally, for a share of up to 10%. The fuel is delivered to us by four or five local suppliers," says Mr Wackström.

So, the supply of green energy will soon rise considerably in Porvoo. But the distribution of district heating and electricity in a city with its roots as far back as the 14th century remains a challenge for the energy provider. Mr Wackström explains that the historical value of the city is constantly considered when developing the network.

"All construction work done within or close to the old parts of the city is strictly supervised by a special committee, with representatives of both the museum authorities and the City of Porvoo, safeguarding the unique buildings and blocks."

"And as the energy provider, we will of course contribute by finding the best possible solutions, adapted to the unique settings, regarding both the work and the electrical fittings, so that in the future, as many residents as possible would have access to the green energy we produce," Mr Wackström concludes.

 

 

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