A Tale of 2 Energy Sources: Smelly and Windy

As you all know very well by now, the purpose of this IRP was to consult Swedish firms on how best to strategically penetrate the US market. A secondary theme was to explore the fresh, dynamic and highly innovative renewable energy industry which is thriving in Sweden. In between client interactions, we have spent a lot of time engaging in this facet of Swedish industry. In this post I will discuss 2 site visits that fall under the clean tech category.

The first visit was to a place called AH Vafab. Here, they convert regular human waste into energy. I want to be cognizant of how I use the words ‘regular waste’ so casually next to each other because the smell of this place cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered ‘regular’. In fact, it STUNK. Unfortunately, I did not capture our walk through the smelly facility on video as we were all trying to make it through the 10 minute walk-through without seeing our breakfast in reverse. What I can do is verbally paint a picture of how bad this place smelled. Imagine you are in a bathroom (with a broken flusher) where the whole city’s trash (ALL kinds of trash – food, sewage, unidentified objects etc.) is surrounding you – and has been there for 1,500 years. The smell was so potent I could see the gas. I can most aptly describe the nasal assault as a combination of an old public restroom, rotten garbage and coffee (i don’t know why but there was a coffee smell for sure). Alright, I think that’s enough. I digress.

All poop aside, this facility is responsible for a pretty amazing piece of innovation: converting waste into energy and then redistributing that energy to productive sources of society once again. Sustainability at its finest.

The dump site showing the Raw Materials (literally)

Poop-to-Energy Converters (Note: scientific name unknown to author)

This energy-related site visit was followed by another one to Goteborg Energy in Gothenburg. This is a municipality-funded organization with a vested focus on wind energy. The firm is cognizant of the EU’s 20-20-20 goal. This agreement explicitly states that, by the year 2020, each EU nation should ensure a 20% reduction in greenhouse emissions, 20% increase in energy efficiency and a 20% minimum use of renewable energy consumption. Sweden is already ahead of the curve in this regard but it aims to stick to the plan by all means necessary. Goteborg Energy’s goal is to build and operate 100 wind turbines by 2015. In terms of electricity consumption this translates into 10% of Gothenburg energy consumption. The most interesting thing I learned on this visit is that wind energy transmission is becoming increasingly efficient. Certain engineering companies like ABB are helping to improve this process. Therefore, it could be feasible to build large wind farms in desolate areas like deserts, forests or offshore to generate enough energy to power urban areas close by.

To me this speaks volumes. As a Saudi Arabian national, one might assert that I should not even be thinking about a new source of energy when oil grows ‘in our backyard’. However, this is not the case at all. Pollution and climate change are REAL problems that need to be addressed. Moreover, as a Red Sea snorkeler and scuba diver, I can vouch for how much destruction has been inflicted upon the coral reefs from petrochemicals and other harmful waste byproducts. So, in short, seeing this wind turbine standing majestically before us was literally a breath of fresh air.

The Wind Turbine

Sue showing her affection for the Wind Turbine

A group of us entering the turbine


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