During our time in Samso Island we had the opportunity to visit two of the island’s district heating plants.
Yesterday afternoon we visited a district heating plant that is located between two small villages and provides heat to 240 homes. This heating plant burns straw that heats up water that gets delivered through a pipe system to the homes it serves. The straw used in the plant is grown on the island, meaning that transportation costs for the materials are minimal and farmer’s benefit from having stable prices for their straw.
Today we visited a District Heating Plant that serves around 200 homes and uses woodchips for energy. All the wood is grown on the island in a sustainable way. For every tree that gets used, another one is planted. The trunks of the trees are used for lumber and the tops are used for chips. This method allows for there to be wood available for building and also enough wood chips for the plant. This plant was different from the last in that it had solar collectors outside that are used when the sun is shining to heat up the water to a base temperature before adding heat from the heating plant. The solar collectors help to make the system more efficient.
The structure of the district heating plants was fairly straightforward and a creative way to provide for the needs of a community while using resources from that community.
Many of us talked about how neat it would be to have a District Heating Plant in Decorah and in our home communities. District heating plants keep costs down and could be a creative way to address the issue of the impact of increasing energy costs on the poor.