A city's friendly incinerator: a reality in Copenhagen

Amager Bakke, operational in Copenhagen since 2017, is a project to turn urban waste into energy and heat. It's also a facility for skiers.

by Massimo Borraccetti
05 February 2020
4 min read
by Massimo Borraccetti
05 February 2020
4 min read

Even when it was launched in 2017, it was already a pioneering waste-to-energy facility that was destined to attract attention. Indeed, ever since then, as well as possessing state-of-the-art technology enabling it to optimise its energy and environmental performance, Amager Bakke has been heralded as a kind of revolution. A new generation of incinerator that wasn't just designed to generate energy and heat for the Danish capital, but also promised to become a place for Copenhagen's citizens to practice sport, ski or go climbing. Two years on and the promise has been kept, the ski slopes are open and the climbing walls are well on their way to being completed for 2020.
Perhaps, from here on in, the Amager Bakke experience will change everyone's perception. There is no doubt that when one sees the word “incinerator”, the first thing that comes to mind is the pollution that will be produced. It's something we'd never want anywhere near our city, let alone right in the middle of it.

However, in Copenhagen, they've found a way to give waste a second life and to do so in the best possible way, by making the needs of the city and its citizens the top priority. In so doing, thanks to a combination of innovative technology and integrated architecture, a waste-to-energy facility has been created – aimed at producing energy from collected waste – which was immediately recognised as being one of the best in Europe in terms of energy efficiency, the capacity to process waste and the focus on the environment, but also in terms of its architectural beauty and acceptance from the community.

An energy efficient giant

A giant standing almost 100 metres tall, but it's the city's friend, feeding on its waste and giving it electricity, heating, raw materials and even new leisure opportunities. Indeed, it's a facility that – as well as its obvious state-of-the-art technological capabilities – now boasts an artificial ski slope that's open to the public, extending across the entire roof and offering three different levels of difficulty, as well as a 90-metre-high wall for climbing enthusiasts to simulate scaling the famous heights of the Alps.

View from the ski slope built on the roof

The facility has therefore become a beacon throughout the world for its capacity to unite avant-garde technologies with the kind of architecture that takes it way beyond its role of being a “simple” industrial facility. Just 5 km from Radhuspladsen, the city's main square: so it's not only an industrial installation, it's also a bona fide tourist attraction: a new port of call for tourists visiting Copenhagen. The facility, built by the company Amager Resource Centre – ARC, is located in Copenhill/Amager Bakke and belongs to 5 of Denmark's municipal districts, one of which is Copenhagen.

Where does the facility's energy efficiency come from? It is able to use more than 99% of the energy contained in the waste that fuels it, reducing sulphur emissions by 99.5% and minimising the emissions of nitric oxides to a tenth, thanks to a technology that cleans the gas emissions. What is really surprising is the facility's capacity to process all types of waste to create energy, and it is destined to replace a 45-year-old incinerator which is due to be converted into a biomass power station by the end of 2020. The waste will therefore be transformed into heat for heating, electricity, recycled raw materials and (re)usable water.

So, it's a new approach to managing waste, one that's based on reducing it, recycling it and converting it into energy. Amager Bakke forms part of a wider context: a renewable energy system project that involves not just Copenhagen, but the whole of Denmark, the objective of which is to convert all carbon-fuelled power stations to wind, solar or geothermal energy. The future of our cities will be underpinned by extracting energy from waste and the Copenhagen facility is one example of how technology and architecture can serve the local community, establishing a virtuous circle that benefits the city and becomes a beacon for the world to follow.


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