Billed as a first for China, a Danish district heating system is being installed in the mountain hide-away city of Shangri-La in a bid to clear the air and save local forests.
Nestled in mountains at 3,300m above sea level, the city used to be called Zhongdian but to boost tourism authorities renamed it Shangri-La in December 2001, after the fictional utopia described in the 1933 James Hilton novel, Lost Horizon.
There is an incredible level of interest from the surrounding provinces and cities, and even from Beijing, as they are all battling air pollution and struggling to comply with more demanding requirements for energy-efficiency– SÃ¸ren K. Christensen, Cowi
Located in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Shangri-La is meant to conjure an image of earthly paradise, but in fact it is plagued by pollution caused by household stoves burning wood and coal – the primary source of heating for the city’s 50,000 residents.
The new district heating system, financed by the Danish government and delivered by ABB Denmark and engineering firm Cowi, is set to cut these emissions completely.
Based on heat pumps and hydroelectric power from a nearby dam, the system is 100% emission-free and increases energy production by 200-300%, Cowi said this week in advance of the system going live in the summer of 2017.
The switch from household stoves to district heating will cut coal consumption by around 17,000 tonnes a year, leading to an annual saving of 105,000 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions, ABB says.
It will also save local forests, now ransacked for firewood, and save energy that would normally be used to transport the wood in journeys totalling nearly 2 million kilometres a year, according to ABB.
The project is financed by a €20m loan from Danida Business Finance, Denmark’s international development agency. Such loans are intended to support sustainable development while exporting Danish expertise.
"The district heating project in Shangri-La is a really good development project which illustrates how Danish companies can do business while also helping to stimulate development in line with the UN’s global goals," said Tina Kollerup Hansen, senior consultant at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Engineering consultancy Cowi won the framework contract for extended monitoring of the system, while ABB Denmark was hired in 2014 to deliver the technologies, including five local SCADA systems (supervisory control and data acquisition) to deliver heat to residents efficiently.
The district heating system is expected to be up and running in the summer of 2017, and will initially supply heat to around a third of the city. But according to Cowi, the city government plans to finance an extension of the system to the whole city.
Cowi said the system is the first of its kind for China.
"That is why there is an incredible level of interest from the surrounding provinces and cities, and even from Beijing, as they are all battling air pollution and struggling to comply with more demanding requirements for energy-efficiency," said SÃ¸ren K. Christensen, technical manager in Cowi’s district heating division.
ABB is a Swedish-Swiss multinational corporation headquartered in ZÃ¼rich.
Image: Roofs of the Old Town of Shangri-La as seen from Guishan Temple (Â©BrokenSphere/Wikimedia Commons)