The new Amagerforbrænding Waste-to-Energy plant is an innovative model in the fields of waste management and energy production. It will be complete in 2016, just three kilometres from downtown Copenhagen. It will be the single largest facility of its kind in Denmark, costing 500 million Euros.
This remarkable plant seeks to change the way waste management and energy production is understood.
Rather than hiding drab industrial processes, the plant hopes to re-connect the Danes to the issues behind waste management. The architectural concept by the Danish firm BIG, will convert the plant into an artificial landscape, drawing the people of Copenhagen in. The public roof of the new Amagerforbraending will be a 31.000 m2 park, and include a snow slope for skiers of all levels.
The Berliner artists group realities:united have designed an elegant exhaust system for the plant. It transforms the smoke emitted into a symbol of the path our waste follows into the atmosphere. Instead of a steady stream of exhaust, the plant emits one giant smoke ring for each quarter ton of CO2 it produces. The rings are 25 m in diameter, and 5 meters high. As they slowly rise and cool, the water within the gas clouds condenses to revealing each ring shortly after it floats away from the plant.
realities:united designed a simple mechanism to create these rings. An elastic cylinder on the roof expands to store the plant’s exhaust. When exactly a quarter ton of CO2 has filled the drum, a shutter opens, and the drum suddenly contracts, expelling the gas into the sky. While leaving the drum, the gas begins to rotate due to the friction between the air and gas particles. This giant demonstration of the Bernoulli Principle lasts several minutes. The rings are stabilized by the motion of the particles as they float off into the atmosphere, slowly dissolving. This phenomenon can also be found in nature. Smoke rings measuring up to 200 meters in diameter and lasting up to 10 minutes have been observed at mount Etna.
The smoke clouds reinstate an archaic communication method to transport a simple fact. Exactly 250kg of carbon dioxide have just been released into the atmosphere. On a clear day, this message will be broadcast throughout the city. Approximately 2,4 million of them per year, released as an endless stream, ring by ring, into the atmosphere.
This solemn procession gives the abstract emissions debate shape and scale; people can see it, and count it.
Still it is not a simple message. On the contrary.
Denmark is the world leader in waste-to-energy conversion. The new state-of the art Amagerforbrænding plant will reduce environmental impact to a minimum. The technology it uses is widely regarded as the best solution available. It still might not be enough.
Sophisticated methods alone will not halt climate change. At the end of the day, only the absolute emissions output matters. Even with tremendous machines that clean up behind us we can no longer ignore the limits of the planet we live on; Only our ability to adapt our lives to these limits will count.