The City of Helsinki plans to make use of this winter’s snows during the heat of the summer months. Helsinki’s Public Works Department and the Helsingin Energia power utility started looking at underground storage facilities for snow already last summer. The plan is for snow to be used in district air-conditioning next summer.
Niko Wirgentius, who heads district cooling service business operations for Helsingin Energia, says that using snow in summer operations only makes sense if underground storage can be found in the centre of the city big enough to take thousands of truckloads of the white stuff. Most importantly, underground storage would help ease the logistics of clearing city streets. Use of the snow later in the year for cooling will be an added bonus.
And, a lot of snow would be needed to meet summer cooling requirements. For example, a pile of snow the size of Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall concert and congress centre would meet only a week’s requirements during the summer months. In order to rely solely on snow, 150 large warehouses would have to be built.
“There’s just not enough snow to do it,” says Wirgentius.
The City of Helsinki has, however, been planning to use snow as a supplement for a decade already. It was only last summer that plans started to be implemented. Technical issues still need to be solved; it is not yet possible to make a firm cost evaluation for the venture. According to Niko Wirgentius, the project could run into the millions.
“On the other hand, regular snow clearance costs, so in a way this is alternative expenditure. Not much of this kind of thing has been done before, so we still don’t know the price tag. However, we are serious about moving forward.”