Meep. Today, we got up early for a long bus ride to one of Denmark’s several CHP plants, and this particular one also has solar thermal panels.
Jægerspris Kraftvarme is one of Denmark’s several consumer-owned Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants across the country providing district heating. This particular plant does not sell electricity. Denmark has built a system where 63% of all homes are connected to district heating. District heating in the US is not as widespread, and district energy is only likely to be found in big city centers or colleges where there are high loads. The heat in this plant is generated from gas-fired boilers and heat pumps. The thermal energy is transported through a 60.2 km long piping system in the form of hot water around 80 degrees Celsius and fed through a heat exchanger and into hot water tanks for storage. The piping is also only about 50 cm underground. In contrast, Pittsburgh still has a fairly old system using steam.
In 2010, the solar thermal plant was commissioned and later expanded in 2013. The total production for solar is about 6100 MWh. All over Denmark, solar district heating has grown increasingly more popular since the first plant in 1988. Similar to the wind farm cooperative, the community voted on adding the solar farm, and everyone contributes through taxes. This means the community made the DKK 23.5 million investment, but each household is also benefiting.
One difficulty with the solar farm that is common with renewables is the weather. Whether the sun is shining or not affects how much solar will be produced, and these decisions have to be made in advance based on the weather forecast for what to put on the spot market. On a good day, this plant has an effectivity of about 50% from solar and is usually around 20%. This is why there is still a need for the gas boilers. Additionally, the solar panels take up a large area and also need large storage areas. Like the geothermal seen at Pitt-Ohio, an aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) utilizes the groundwater and seasonal temperatures. Right now there are no plans to expand the solar, but another gas boiler is expected to be installed.
At the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), we toured and learned more about their Center for Electric Power and Energy. Their focus is to develop a reliable, cost-efficient and sustainable energy system based on renewables. There are efforts to transform the energy system and decentralize to become more user centered and incorporate smart technologies.
A unique research endeavor DTU is pursuing as part of the experimental platform PowerLabDK is the island Bornholm, located south of Sweden. The island model represents roughly 1% of Denmark’s population, area, and energy consumption. It is a full-scale power system, and measurements from Bornholm were able to be displayed in the control lab that we were in. This island is also a microgrid that can operate independently but is currently connected with the Nordic power system. There are experiments on the island testing out Smart Grid technologies. Branded as the “Bright Green Island”, it is currently at 50% renewable energy with goals to reach up to 100% renewables.
Moreover, my favorite fact was that our presenter Dr. Ostergaard owns his own wind turbine!
The center had several very impressive facilities that range from a Control Center Lab with a real time digital simulator for hardware-in-the-loop tests and wide area monitoring and control to a High Voltage Lab (above), where applied voltages including AC, DC, or impulses can be used to simulate conditions like lightning!
Whoa. That was a lot of information. Sarah even took a nap on the bus ride back 😅 We had the rest of day as free time so most of us wanted to venture out and pick up some souvenirs and gifts for our loved one.
I remembered the tour guide mentioning a big department store called Magisan where we could get chocolate liquorice, which the Danes are famous for eating a lot of. I snagged two of the classic chocolate ones to share with my family because food is always the best gift 😉 They had samples; I thought it tasted strange, but I sort of like it? The liquorice inside is distinct black liquorice, and there’s also liquorice powder dusted each of the chocolate balls.
We stopped by a generic souvenir shop and then got some nomnomnoms. I really wanted to try these waffles on a stick because they looked cool. Yeah, my reasoning makes so much sense, but everything on a stick is pretty cool, right?
Something that’s been on my mind is what I’m doing after the end of the course. Pro tip: figuring this stuff out beforehand can relieve some of this stress but YOLO. Most people are flying back home from Sweden this Sunday, but I wanted to stay longer since I’m already over in Europe. Well, I was contemplating Norway and possibly joining another student on his adventures, but tonight/ this morning (at like 2 am hehe) I have spontaneously changed my mind completely and booked a flight to London and also a hostel to stay at. This feels more like me because I’m such a city girl and really want to see all the Harry Potter stuff like King’s Cross Station. Eeeep, I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s kind of scary knowing I’ll be traveling by myself. I couldn’t coordinate with anyone to go with, and there was no way in hell I was going to let that stop me from doing what I want. So I’m excited for the unknown challenges and adventures that lie ahead.