Denmark, with a landscape as flat as a pancake, might be a new whimsical destination for skiing, thanks to Copenhagen’s new power plant.
That’s right. Last weekend in Copenhagen, an 8-year dream was realized when the first paying skiers took their runs down a one-third-mile course, wrapping around what is possibly the greenest power plant in the world.
The plant is so clean and safe that designers were able to turn its building mass into a new hub for social life.
A hybrid between a building and a landscape, the huge glass and mirrored structure contains planters covering the façade in a checkerboard pattern that might one day give the illusion of a green mountain from every direction.
Copenhill, as it’s called, features ski-lifts on the outside and also a glass elevator for seeing the inner workings of how the city’s trash is transformed into both electricity and heating for more than 200,000 homes.
The waste-to-power plant itself opened in 2017 under the name Amager Bakke (Amager, for the island Copenhagen is on, and Bakke, the Danish word for “hill”).
Bjarke Ingels is the architect whose company, Bjarke Ingels Group, came up with the idea eight years ago of designing a power plant structure that would incorporate mountain sports into its very nature.
“It is the cleanest waste-to-energy power plant in the world. It is a crystal clear example of ‘Hedonistic Sustainability’ (a phrase he coined because) a sustainable city is not only better for the environment—it is also more enjoyable for the lives of its citizens.”
Ingles says 97% of city residents get their heating as a byproduct of energy production, from an integrated system where the electricity, heating, and waste disposal are combined into a single process. He believes that it is also becoming a beacon that others can look to and say, ‘if Copenhagen can do it, why can’t we?’
There are no hills on this island city, but now residents can ski and snowboard locally, while enjoying the best views ever seen of the harbor. Another thing missing here is snow cover throughout the winter, so designers installed a specially-coated “plastic grass” that provides the perfect friction for downhill winter sports.
In a country where 600,000 skiers always had to travel to practice carving their turns, to be able to finally ski in their backyard—and, all year-round—is, as one skier said, “EXTRAORDINARY.”
Visitors can relax in the restaurant and bar at the highest point of the building, or meander on the steep hiking and running trails. It even features the tallest climbing wall in the world— 270-feet (85 meters) high, designed with overhangs and ledges of white, like an icy mountain. (For certified climbers only at the top.)
The $660 million power plant will process up to 440,000 tons of waste each year using furnaces, turbines, and steam. The electricity it produces can heat 160,000 homes and provide electric power to another 60,000. And though these numbers are impressive, the 24-hour operation of the entire facility can reportedly be handled by just two engineers.
The developers hope to see 300,000 visitors enjoying the multi-purpose experience of CopenHill each year, with the ski slope costing $22 an hour or just $366 for a full season pass.
Professional skier Nikolaj Vang said, “I’ve been skiing for 35 years, and I was very surprised and pleased that the coating had the perfect friction. I had feared that one would either get too little or too much slip, but I think the coating is perfect for all levels.”
Meanwhile, the city is one step closer to its ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. We think it might be all ‘downhill’ from here.
WATCH some freestyle skiers using the jumps and railings on the building, and meet the designer…
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