TACKLING EUTROPHICATION TOGETHER
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €3.7m
- 100 pilot farms incorporate best practices
- On-going study trips aid in information exchange
- Member States work together to address environmental concerns
The Baltic Deal is an ERDF project that brings together farmers and different advisory groups from across the region to focus on ways of fighting environmental problems. Its main aim is to fight against eutrophication, the process by which nutrients escape from the soil into the sea and stimulate algae growth. This in turn suffocates marine life as oxygen is removed by these algae growth. It is estimated that there is currently 800% more algae in the Baltic than 100 years ago. At present more than 377,000 square kilometres of the Baltic is regarded as a dead zone, and the algae prevents fish stocks from recovering.
About fourth-fifths of all artificial nutrients in the sea come from the land, including agricultural runoff, sewage, industrial and municipal waste. By working together farmers in the region can make a real impact reducing this waste.
The Baltic deal project has created a network of farmers and farm advisory services that learn from one another’s best practice in fertilisation, manure management, soil structure, plant cover and protection zones and precision farming. New techniques are tested in pilot areas to allow for a growth in innovation in ecological practice. In addition 100 pilot farms are maintained throughout the region where the latest environmental and business techniques are showcased. Study trips are organised between national stakeholders to improve the exchange of best practice.
One of the trial farms is run by the Erickson family outside Stockholm. This husband-and-wife team use practices on their farm that encourage lowering the amount of nutrients that seep into the nearby Baltic. This is achieved through buffer-zones around the key field. In addition they have also started to employ sensor-based technology on their tractors that detect exactly how much phosphorus and nitrogen is needed in the ground, a practice that reduces waste. Other farmers have followed the experiences of the Ericksons to see what works properly.
Alone this project will not address the problem of eutrophication in the region, and other schemes are being run in parallel like the PURE scheme. This key program seeks to address the issue at a municipal level. It will take about 30 years for the phosphates and nitrogen to be washed out of the system as the tides only renew the waters ever 30years.
Over the three years of its existence the program has clearly demonstrated how countries can work together and voluntarily create systems that address environmental challenges.
THREE NEW LINES FOR SOFIA METRO
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €441m
- Focused and well-planned EU funding solving significant transport problems in a European capital
- Positive changes in behaviour among Sofia residents who experienced the benefits of an environmentally-friendly mode of transport
- 18% reduction of traffic accidents, 905,000 tons/year reduction of noxious gases (incl. GHG), 15-20% noise reduction
- 35m EUR in direct and indirect economic benefits annually after the completion of two of the lines
Under development since the 1960s, the Sofia metro was not officially launched until the late 1990s mainly because the lack of stable funding and construction expertise.
The first section of line one was inaugurated on 28 January 1998, with five stations. By autumn 2007, an additional five stations had been added to the line. Yet by then the metro’s share of public transport peaked at 6%, about 70-80 000 passengers daily.
During the initial phase of construction, investments came primarily from the budget of the Sofia municipality budget and loans from financial institutions, primarily Japan Bank for International Cooperation.
It was with the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union in 2008 that new doors for the project opened. At the end of 2008 a 104 million euro loan with the European Investment Bank was signed, and the project was included in the Operational Programme Transport under the priority axis "Improvement of intermodality for transportation of passengers and freights."
The benefits of this project are immense and readily identifiable. The number of daily passengers on the metro is approaching 550 000 a day, representing an increase to 38% of its share in the public transport system. Traffic and road accidents have been reduced by 18% and noise reduction is estimated at 15-20%. Sofia residents save 110 000 hours each day in commuting time, translating into greater economic efficiency – the direct and indirect economic effects are estimated at 35 million euros per year. The reduction of noxious emissions, including greenhouse gases is annually 90.500 tonnes.
This is a very clear example how EU funding, if focused and well planned, can realise a large project to solve transport problems in an European capital. The project has positively impacted the perception of Sofia residents regarding public transport.
Moreover, the availability of large amounts of EU funds has encouraged the Sofia municipality to plan and realise a larger transport intermodal scheme including car parks at the entrance of the city, the airport and main railway station to ensure effective intermodality of passenger flows.
The example also showcases that environmentally and socially acceptable projects can in fact be implemented in a timely and financially efficient way using available funds.
LOW-ENERGY RECONSTRUCTION OF PRIMARY SCHOOL
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €440,000
- Energy consumption reduced 90%
- Energy costs savings €2,146 per year
- Healthier environment for the students and teachers thanks to a smart ventilation system
The school in Slivenec outside of Prague was in a state of disrepair: wasteful energy consumption, a shabby interior and a lack of facilities for both students and teachers. While it is difficult to achieve passive building standards in an existing building, with the local authority's commitment to quality, innovative solutions, students and teachers alike now enjoy classes in a state-of-the-art facility. Not only has the building helped reduce energy consumption, the greatly improved ventilation system contributes to a healthy and pleasurable environment for all.
Original energy consumption decreased from 203 kWh/m2/year to 21 kWh/m2/year, and the quality of the inner environment and conditions for learning have improved significantly. "Experts point out that we often force school children to concentrate in a situation when vitiated air in the classroom resembles more the climate of a submarine in an emergency situation, making it extremely hard for children to concentrate. It is thus absolutely clear that we are obliged to secure a solution at the level of today's standards", said Jana Plamínková, head of the district council of Prague-Slivenec.
Early planning and a focus on principles of ecological design, energy and economic efficiency were instrumental. An energy audit comparing two options helped inform the construction decision in favour of passive standards. The principles of passive building were applied during the reconstruction: including thick mineral wool air-sealed roof insulation, triple-glazed windows, air-conditioning with heat recovery, and classroom ventilation.
The district council of Prague-Slivenec was so satisfied with the results of the reconstruction that it has decided to build its new kindergarten to full passive energy standards.
IMPROVED PUBLIC TRANSPORT SERVICES
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €5m
- Re-established connection between the Polish and Czech sides of the Jizera and Giant mountains
- Improved access to mobility
- Increased appeal of the region for tourism
- Helps tackle frequent road transport congestion in the region
The Tanvald microregion bordering Poland is a popular and mountainous tourist destination on both the Czech and Polish sides. It is used for seasonal sports, particularly cycling and cross-country skiing. But, accessing the region has been difficult: the railway between Tanvald and Szklarska Poreba in Poland, constructed between 1899 and 1902, has not been fully operational since 1945.
Local authorities worked together with railway companies to increase the attractiveness of this destination by improving public transport, and re-establishing the connection between the Czech and Polish sides, and the only rail connection between the Liberec-Jablonec urban area and the Jelenia Gora region.
Harsh winter conditions, including freezing temperatures, snow and dangerous roads, are typical of the Tanvald region. This project included optimising the density of rail stops and upgrading the quality of bus stops, improving access to mobility for a wide range of users. Four new railway stops and the replacement of 18 bus shelters in the towns of Desná, Smržovka and Velké Hamry improved both access to train services and the attractiveness of using public transport.
The railway line now facilitates significantly improved access to the area for tourism, including enough space to carry bicycles and skis.
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS FOR MUNICIPALITIES
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €224,000 & €45,000
- Increased waste separation, introduction of separate biodegradable waste collection
- Introduction of home composting and composting for gardens
- Increased capacity for the treatment of biowaste by 130 tonnes annually
The Czech municipalities of Trojanovice and Zubří are addressing resource management solutions by implementing programs to increase the scale of separate waste collection as well as introduce home composting, and reducing the amount of waste heading to landfill. In the case of Trojanovice, by increasing the number of separation locations, launching biowaste separation, consolidating the containers system and introducing an additional bag separation system, the municipality made waste separation easier for its people and increased residents' motivations to separate waste through a new system of fees.
In the city of Zubří, the addition of 300 home composters for local households enabled residents to separate biowaste and make use of the compost produced for their own benefits. The project improved waste management and increased the capacity of biowaste treatment by 130 tonnes annually. Even after a recent extension of the project by another 200 home composters, demand exceeds the availability.
The introduction of measures like additional bag systems for separating waste and composting are particularly important in central and eastern Europe. In best-case scenarios, only around 20% of municipal solid waste is recycled or composted here, and the EU average is two times higher. Home composting is also an easy way for Europeans to save resources when households are persuaded of the multiple benefits.
MODERNISING PASSENGER TRAIN ROLLING STOCK
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €79.5m
- Improving the attractiveness of rail transport
- Increased safety and environmental benefits
The Estonian economy is transport-intensive and, if current trends continue, Estonia will become one of the most transport energy-intensive Member States of the EU. But mobility patterns are still more diverse than the rest of Europe: public transport use in daily commuting is higher than the EU average. The share of walking and public transport in Estonian cities is around two-thirds of total trips, so it's a good idea to encourage this further and avoid growth in car use.
Currently, the oldest passenger trains being used date back to 1968. The Estonian Government has decided to change the rolling stock by the end of 2014 through the purchase of 18 electric trains and the capital lease of 20 diesel trains. The electric and diesel trains will remain the property of the state owned Electric Railway Ltd. The first electric train will start its service at the end of 2012 and the first diesel train in the first quarter of 2013.
The Estonian Government has decided to update the rolling stock by the end of 2014. The purchase of 18 electric and 20 diesel trains with a total cost of €79,5m of which 85% (€67.5m) is financed from the European Regional Development Fund 2007-2013.
There are also plans to develop rail connections, focusing on the restoration of existing rail infrastructure and increasing the frequency of trains between larger Estonian towns and cities (Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu and Narva), as well to larger metropolitan areas like St. Petersburg, Riga and Moscow.
Improvements in rail transport should be implemented along with other measures, such as planning new developments close to railway stations, introducing charges for road freight and congestion charges, and improving public transport interchange stops and 'Park & Ride' systems.
BIOGAS BUSES IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €4.74m
- Increased energy independence — municipal waste treatment plant as a local source of biogas
- Biogas-run vehicles produce up to 25% less CO2 emissions than those running on petrol; 12% less than diesel while producing 10-15% less noise
A cornerstone of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Region is to make the region more environmentally sustainable. A first step to reduce environmental problems caused by the transport system is to convince more people to use public transport by making it more attractive and accessible.
A quarter of Estonia's energy demand comes from the transport sector (of which 94% are cars and trucks). The fastest growth in fuel consumption and GHG emissions was from 2004-2007, and the EU’s 11% GHG emission 'growth limit' until 2020 has already been exceeded. Together with partners from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany, Estonians are stimulating cities and regions around the Baltic Sea to use biogas-powered buses. Biogas-powered vehicles produce up to 25% less CO2 emissions than cars running on petrol and 12% less than ones running on diesel, and also produce 10-15% less noise than the diesel alternative.
The Tartu local authority is planning to increase the number of compressed natural gas buses in the future, as part of Tartu City's Transport Strategy 2012-2020. This states that the share of gas-powered buses should increase to 50% of all inner-city public transport vehicles, and reduce car traffic.
At present, the buses run on natural gas, not biogas, as the relevant technology in the nearest waste treatment plant is still in the development phase. The use of biogas buses in public transport is one small, but important, step towards reducing environmental problems caused by the transport system.
ENERGY EFFICIENT SOCIAL HOUSING STOCK
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €570m
- Small investments in housing can result in big energy conservation
- 800,000 social housing units in 15 areas to be retrofitted between 2009 and 2020
- To date, there has been a €1,170 average energy saving per household per year
- Estimated that 15,000 jobs have been either created or maintained
During this economic down-turn investment in public housing is often one of the first items to be face budget cuts despite the increased need for the service. But small investments in the housing stock can mean big reductions in national energy consumption. Obviously the best way of reducing the damage of Green House Gas emissions and energy dependence is to reduce the energy used in heating.
As part of the European Economic Recovery Plan, Member States have been encouraged through the ERDF to improve energy efficiency in buildings and promote jobs creation.
The French government is currently meeting this challenge head-on and has plans to retrofit 800,000 social housing units in 15 areas between 2009 and 2020. This is being made possible by an ERDF allocation of 153.8 million Euro, or 27% of the over the current financing period.
To date the results have been impressive. By the end of the first phase in March 2011, 63.000 homes were retrofitted and of those over a third will be of class A. The saving of energy is equal to 1.170 EURO per household. For a family on a low wage and a public service struggling with ever increasing energy price this is of real benefit.
Within the first 22 months 97% of the whole ERDF envelope had been distributed and a second wave was launched.
As energy is being conserved instead of being generated through the combusting of fossil fuels it has a very positive pay off for the local government.
At present it is estimated that 15.000 jobs have been either created or maintained during the initial phase of project. It is mainly local SMEs that are benefiting from these contracts so the money stays in the local economy.
One of the focus regions for this project is Brittany where 153.000 social housing units, managed by 38 operators, are awaiting conversion. In the first 9 months of the project 2.103 households were brought up from the bottom, D,E,F,G standard, to the efficiency A and B Efficiency level.
In this same period it is estimate that 760 jobs were created locally in the construction and planning areas. These are real results in an area that needs support.
Europe should look at what large scale retrofitting projects can do in terms of energy security, fighting climate change and improving the lives of citizens who benefit from better services and jobs created.
SHOWCASE FOR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €1.72m
- Average household energy bill reduced by 10-20%
- Job creation significantly reduced local unemployment
- Wind park capacity produces 75 MW, solar park 2.45 MW and biogas 600 kW
- District heating system improves efficiency
The hamlet of Feldheim is located 60Km from Berlin in Eastern Germany and has recently made headlines around the world for all the right reasons. Over the last five years, the hamlet of Feldheim in eastern Germany has developed complete energy independence for its 145 inhabitants by combining wind, solar and biomass energy sources.
Feldheim’s energy independence achieved for its population of 145 people rests on creating parallel energy supplies from wind, solar and biomass. The €1.72 million needed to finance the project come from the operational programme "Brandenburg 2007-2013" which is made of a combination of ERDF (€621,000 or 36%), private equity and contributions from the German state.
Despite its small scale, the project managed to reduce the average household energy bill by 10-20% and provide green jobs during the construction and operation of the facility. In a jobs black spot region, where unemployment averaged 30%, the biogas plant and a local solar panel factory have ensured close to a 0% unemployment rate in Feldheim.
Recent efficiencies mean that the wind park now has a maximum capacity of 74 MW, the solar park can produce 2.45 MW and the biogas plant 600 kW. By pooling different types of energy generation, reliability is secured. There is also a district heating network powered by the local renewables, and supplemented by a woodchip burner when needed. This greatly increases energy efficiency in the supply of hot water and heating to homes and businesses.
Feldheim is currently used by the German Government as an international showcase, displaying what can be done when sufficient local resolve exists and what needs to be done to bring the renewable energy to 35% of national energy consumption by 2020. In an era of high unemployment, rising household bills and a fear of the dangers that accompany nuclear energy, a real alternative is being provided in this utopic setting.
While this is a small scale project it still had to show the same standards in terms of reliability and safety as larger energy utilities. This means things like electricity supplies not be interrupted even for a split second. For local business this is essential prerequisite.
Without the funding from the ERDF, it is unlikely that this project would have ever gotten off the ground. Not only does it provide a sizeable portion of capital funding, it indicates to private investors, that a large part of the risk is assumed by the government and Europe, making it even more attractive. But at a grass roots level success of the partnership is due to the partnership of the municipality, the inhabitants of Feldheim and the project developer, Energiequelle GmbH (a consortium made up of connected households, local business and the municipality).
At the grassroots level, the success of the project was brought about by the efficient cooperation of the local authority, the inhabitants of Feldheim and the local project developer. After the success of this little village, the German Agriculture minister has set up a contest for a second Bioenergy Village. Following the example of Feldheim, 300 other villages are looking to replicate its success. Across Europe Feldheim is being seen as a possible blueprint for community-owned renewable energy.
GEOTHERMAL CASCADE SYSTEM
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €2m
- Provides energy for several public buildings (town hall, library, primary school, community centre, kindergarten)
- Reduces the costs of heating and hot water for the local authority (by around 80%)
- During the 25 years lifecycle of the project, annual CO2 emission reduction of 870 tonnes, while the natural gas saving is 482,000 m3, which equals 80% of total consumption
As one of the most disadvantaged areas in Hungary, Mórahalom received funding to tap into its geothermal potential. Even though the geothermal water is not hot enough for electricity generation, it is still sufficient for heating buildings and providing hot water for everyday use. A cascade system was built to heat the town hall, the library, a primary school, a kindergarten and a local hotel, saving around 80% of the energy costs.
The success of the project encouraged the municipality to continue developing renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures, such as extended geothermal energy utilisation, LED technology in street lights, photovoltaic solar cells and replacement of doors and windows of public buildings.
"In my view the cascade system is a fantastic achievement for Mórahalom because it takes us on the road of local resource use and emission reduction at the same time as achieving huge savings in the city budget!" says József Zoltán-Pásztor, the project manager.
FILLING GAPS IN THE CYCLING NETWORK
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €445,000
- Promotes a more environmentally friendly mode of transport
- Share of bike traffic is expected to increase from 3% to 10% by 2013
- Successful pressure from civil society
The aim of the project is to create the necessary infrastructure for a network of commutable bicycle paths in the southern part of Veszprém, connecting the city centre and the Southern Institutional Centre. Within the framework of the project, 2,362m of bicycle paths and street-lighting, a closed bike storage in Erzsébet-liget, an open-air bike storage in the Theatre Garden, a bike ramp, and a safety barrier were constructed, and rainwater channelling works were implemented.
A 10 km long bicycle path between Veszprém and Lake Balaton was also constructed. This connected the already existing bicycle network surrounding the lake, the most popular tourist destination in Hungary. Supported by civil society groups, inhabitants requested the construction of the bicycle network. This started with a petition directed at local government for more local bicycle routes to local villages, and resulted in an increase of bicycle traffic between Veszprém and Lake Balaton.
"The Veszprém-Szentkirályszabadja-Balatonalmádi bicycle path is a result of the active cooperation of both civil society organizations and the local authority", says Tímea Szalay, chairperson of a local NGO – Csalán Association.
As well as improved bicycle access to the lake, cycling is now possible between several educational, public administration and public utility institutions, and hundreds of workplaces. As a result of the bike network projects, the share of bike traffic is expected to be increased from 3% to 10% by 2013, and the car traffic and the greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be reduced significantly.
UPGRADING THE CENTRAL ARTERY OF NAPLES' METRO
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €400m
- CO2 emissions cut by 250,000 tonnes per year across the network
- Reduced oil consumption of 110,000 tonnes per year across the network
- Better and more frequent services and faster journey times
Part of the rejuvenation of wider Naples requires the development of a localised metro system capable of transporting 2.9 million residents around the city.
Within this remit, the upgrade of the Metroline 1, the backbone of the system, was seen as essential for providing a fully sustainable service, especially for citizens living and working between the Garibaldi and Dante neighbourhoods of the city.
This will allow citizens access to the main line and enable greater interconnections with the central railway station and the airport. 150,000 residents living and working in this suburb will directly benefit from better and more frequent services and faster journey times, as well as, indirectly, 390,000 other citizens as they pass through the area.
The line itself is managed by the Metronapolli S.P. of which the municipality of Naples is the largest shareholder. Between 2000 and 2012, the estimated overall benefits of the metro upgrade and extension make a significant difference to the carbon footprint of the city, with an annual reduction of CO2 emissions by 250,000 tonnes and a cut in oil consumption by 110,000 tonnes – a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of the city. On top of this, services are now more frequent and journey times have been reduced.
BIOMASS DISTRICT HEATING
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €3.7m
- Full switch to renewable sources of energy
- Additional savings of about 15-25% of energy production
- Prevention of further increase in heating costs for the inhabitants
- More than 90% decrease in particulate matter emissions; considerable decrease in emissions of sulphur, ash and other substances
Tukums is a medium sized town and it is located about 65 km west of Riga. There are about 20,000 inhabitants in the town and around 70% of them are using the services of the district heating system. Between 2008 and 2009, the local authority joined the "Baltic Biomass Network" project and together with various stakeholders developed a regional bioenergy development strategy. Phasing out fossil fuel use became the logical next step.
The municipally-owned heating company "Tukuma Siltums" installed two new biomass boilers of 10 MW capacity to replace heavy, old fuel oil boilers. In addition, flue gas condensers were installed using technology developed by a local company. These condensers, provide additional efficiency in terms of heat energy production, by capturing heat from the water-heavy fumes that result from burning biomass, even more effectively. The flue gas condensers also decrease the emission of small particles by more than 90%, as well as decreasing emissions of sulphur, ash and other substances into the air.
As a result of this activity the efficiency of heat energy production has substantially increased and fossil fuels were replaced with more climate friendly biomass from locally sourced woodchips – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing fossil fuel imports and contributing to local employment. Latvian legislation forbids clear-cuts or fast growing biomass plantations, therefore possible risks on biodiversity connected to biomass use have been minimised. Tukums has now made the switch to renewable sources of energy, providing energy price stability, local employment and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
PIONEERING AGROENERGETIC COMPLEXES
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €345,000
- Offering the region technological advantages to develop local renewable energy sources
- Maintaining farm production and jobs
- Cutting the dependency on costly fossil energy
The Baltic Eco-Energy Cluster (BEEC) is a research and development initiative that brings together public universities, local governments and private enterprises looking to promote co-generation. The cluster operates in the traditionally agricultural areas of Northern Poland from Koszalin through the Pomorskie region to the eastern borders of the of Warminsko-Mazurskie region.
Distributed co-generation is a developing technology of simultaneous small and medium scale production of thermal energy and electricity from biomass and other renewable sources. It is one of the key elements in the establishment of smart grids, allowing for regionally based regulation of renewable energy inputs and stabilising the grid. BEEC used this technology in rural areas characterised by sparse infrastructure, offering the region local renewable energy sources, maintaining farm production and jobs, while cutting its dependency on costly fossil energy.
Several agroenergetic complexes have been built using the cutting-edge technologies of biogas and cogeneration facilities for heat and power, being one of the first of their kind in Poland. The installation in Kepice, for example, covers 75% of the towns needs for heat and hot water with 83% efficiency, saving annually 1,400 tonnes of coal. The cluster also works on the development of turbines for micro CHP modules and biogas systems in private houses, pioneering the smart grid experience in real life of families.
ELECTRIC BIKES TACKLE CO2 EMISSIONS
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €315,000
- 13,000 km travelled by electric bike after six months
- In the pilot phase of the project, more than two tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided
The city of Agueda (50,000 inhabitants) in north west Portugal has pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by one third by 2020. One strand of its transport policy is the creation of a new public electric bicycle scheme, named operation "Center", which allows citizens to reduce their carbon footprint and access new parts of the city.
The scheme's overall aim was to encourage more citizens to see cycling in general – and not just the new bikes – as a viable transport alternative. This builds into the overall emissions reduction plan of Agueda that seeks to support a shift of mentality in how citizens view the environment, energy and transport.
Between July 2010 and February 2011, a pilot project introduced ten electric bikes, each of which had a WiMAX tracking system that allows the scheme's administrator to track their use. After the first six months of the trial, 13,000 km were covered by the bicycles, saving the equivalent of two tonnes of carbon emissions. There has also been a reduction in car use and noise pollution, as well as cleaner air. Following the success of the pilot phase, it was decided to expand the project throughout 2012 and increase the number of bicycles available, using the data collected to sensibly distribute the bike stations.
As the bikes become an established feature of the city of Agueda and more and more appear on the streets they will further increase in popularity and the benefits are likely to increase exponentially. This project shows how small savvy investments in transport can change attitudes, lead to better transport choices and yield large environmental returns.
SLOVAKIA + AUSTRIA
BUILDING WILDLIFE CROSSINGS
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €1.5m
- Reconstructing wildlife migration routes
- Partnering a wide variety of experts
The alpine area separating the Austrian Alps and the Carpathian mountains are home to some of Europe’s rarest species such as brown bear, wolf, Lynx and red deer. Unfortunately the biodiversity in this region is under threat as traditional migration routes have been divided by manmade borders, highways, urban conglomerations and agricultural areas. Without free passage these species have become restricted to certain small areas or are likely to die crossing the barriers.
The Austrian Federal Ministry for Traffic Innovation and Technology became aware of this problem in 2001 and commissioned the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) to investigate the environmental impact that this ecological ghettoisation was having. Based on these results, a broad partnership formed between Austrian and Slovak organisations to address the problem.
In 2009 stakeholders including spatial planners, environmentalists, farmers, hunters and civil engineers identified the main issues and laid out a three-year plan to construct a series of "green bridges", to be administered and built by the Land of Lower Austria and eleven other Austrian and Slovak project partners.
These new routes would include a number of "stepping stone habitats", made up of forested parks to allow safe crossing areas over motorway barriers. The bridges and underpasses where wildlife could freely bypass the manmade obstacles would mean that they could complete their migratory roots from east to west.
The areas where passage has been made possible include a bridge on the A4 Vienna-Budapest motorway and on the Slovak side, the Bratislava motorway.
This project is a case study for other ERDF projects on how a successful project of this type can be undertaken. This is essential as more of Europe’s transport, environment and local authorities look to minimise the impact grey infrastructure has on biodiversity.
Many challenges to the project exist, not least of which was communicating the idea of green corridors to the public. To date much work has been done with local schools to educate the children on this path. A cycling track following the path of one of the corridors has been introduced so people can learn about what this project is all about.
Another problem has been to work across the very different planning systems that exist in the partner countries. It is not simply planning a set of routes and cordoning off land. Differing local bureaucracies have to be persuaded of the value of what the corridors offer. Part of the success of this project has been the acceptance of the national corridor scheme into the Burgenland national development plan. This will protect spaces that have been developed and lead to more planning in the future.
BIOENERGY RECONSTRUCTION OF BOILER ROOMS
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €7.2m
- Successful community approach
- Increased energy independence and energy security in the region
- Saving 67% of energy costs, energy price decrease by more than 25%, GHG emissions decrease by 2,643 tonnes/year and particle pollutions by 52 tonnes/year
- 21 new jobs created
The Bystricko Bioenergy Project is located in the Poľana region, a secluded area rich in history, unique nature, and potential renewable energy. Despite of all these assets, the region is underdeveloped. It is constantly threatened by unsustainable economic activity, the devastation of nature, little coordination between local stakeholders and a brain drain that is taking much of the talented youth away from the region.
In 2005, several local authorities coordinated by Friends of the Earth-CEPA established an association of villages called "Bystricko Biomass". The leading idea behind the formation of the association was to become self-sufficient in energy production by using local wood waste to heat municipal premises, replacing coal boilers.
Three years later, the association submitted an application for a contribution from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in order to build four wood chip distribution warehouses and reconstruct 15 boiler rooms; heating 43 renovated buildings in eight villages. The project was approved and the contract signed in 2009 between the association and the managing authority at the Ministry of Environment. The project has since delivered numerous benefits such as lower energy bills, less pollution and higher energy independence. Everything is now owned by the association of villages, which is also managing the new boiler rooms and distributing the energy to the villages. The whole heat supply comes from local sources, leftover wood from several local municipal and private sawmills that would otherwise need to be disposed of.
Compared to the biggest regional suppliers, energy prices paid by the association are now 25% cheaper. Greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 2,643 tons a year and particle pollutions by 52 tons a year. In addition, 21 new jobs were created. It should not be forgotten, that by founding the association, the villages saved significant money and time employing managers, project documentation and related project application work. If every village of the association planned a similar project independently the final benefits would have been much less.
A project like this can work anywhere. There are many associations, cooperative societies and self-sufficient regions in countries like Austria and Norway that are looking at this model. In an environment where coal and gas still dominate the national energy mix, this project is more than innovative. It shows that, through cooperation, local communities can do a lot to improve their energy efficiency, bring work to region, and help decrease the emissions of greenhouse gases.
ENERGY FROM BIOGAS
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €36m
- 120 to 160 thousand tonnes of waste can be converted to biogas every year
- This gas can generate 22 GWh of power
- The plant design reduces water and energy impact
The Besos Eco Park 3 waste treatment plant in Barcelona is a state-of-the-art facility that allows the recycling of waste and creation energy from organic materials.
As in many cities across Europe waste is becoming a problem for communities to deal with. On average each inhabitant of the Barcelona Metropolitan area produces 1.46 kg of solid waste. This all needs to go somewhere and the Eco Park 3 is seen as part of the solution.
Each year over 400,000 tonnes of waste passes through the centre. Of this between 30 and 40 percent is organic and can be recovered for conversion into biogas. The gas is used to generate power (22GWh per year), half of this goes to power the station itself and the other half is redirected into the city grid where it is used by the citizens for everyday use.
The remaining waste goes through a triage system where paper, glass and plastic are all recovered and are sent for recycling.
The Eco Park 3 was constructed with the contribution of €36 million from the ERDF. This represented 80% of all funding. The treatment and waste processing facility is owned by the Barcelona metropolitan area authority and is managed by a private consortium of two companies, one operating the section for energy utilisation, the other operating the recovery of organic materials.
The design of the plant has been undertaken in such a way as to reduce environmental impact namely in the areas of water and energy. Because of its location next to the sea front special care has been taken in selecting architecture that minimizes the visual impact of the facilities. Space for the instillation is minimized as each of the separating recycling processes is stacked horizontally this reduces the area on which the facility is built.
New technologies for exhaust systems have been used closing the circulation of exhaust gases, capturing odour and chemical emissions. Also the escaping heat from the co-generation is captured and used for further energy production. For capturing escaping organic matter into the water a treatment plant was installed.
The Besos facility is bringing a real solution to the problem of communal dumping across Europe. Local authorities are realising that land-fills or combustion are no longer an option to dealing with increase levels. Instead they see the energy potential in waste and are looking at ways of harnessing a now precious commodity.
With world solid waste levels due to increase from 1.3 billion tonnes to 2.2 billion tonnes in 2025, old solutions have to be dropped in favour of facilities like Besos.
WIND TURBINE BLADES TESTING FACILITY
TOTAL INVESTMENT: €22.4m
- Helping the UK further advance offshore renewable energy
- Providing an ideal environment to accelerate technology development
- Securing Europe's leading position as an exporter of this technology
- Finding greater efficiencies in wind power
EU co-financing helped to bring together the engineering traditions of the north east England with the state-of-the-art offshore wind energy sector, creating the world's largest testing facility for turbine blades.
This specialised 5,700m2 construction was completed in August 2012 and is designed to test blades of up to 123 metres in length that are destined for the open seas, where the natural elements will push them to their limits. The new facility will provide an independent and confidential environment to accelerate the development of new blade designs before they are taken offshore.
The project was commissioned by the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NAREC) and is located in Northumberland. A total of 1,503 offshore turbines are now installed and grid- connected in European waters, bringing total installed capacity to 4,336 MW — spread across 56 wind farms in ten European countries. Testing facilities like this can help produce larger blades which bring greater efficiencies, reducing both cost and energy consumption. This new facility will ensure that Europe can continue being a leader in this sector and export its technology around the world.
Andrew Constantine, commercial director for Shepherd Construction commented: "As there are currently no other facilities of this scale in operation, the project team has had to come up with a unique solution necessitating precisely calculated tolerances that will enable the structure to withstand the rigorous of testing. This makes it all the more worthwhile to see the blade test facility handed over and on its way to helping the UK further advance the offshore renewable energy."