From Larry West,Your Guide to Environmental Issues.
People in Sweden know about body heat. How do you think they get through those long, cold Scandinavian winters? But now a Swedish company has come up with a really hot idea: a simple yet innovative plan to use human body heat as a source of renewable energy.
Every day, some 250,000 people pass through Stockholm Central Station, the largest train station in Sweden. They rush to catch trains or subways, or simply stroll along shopping at some of the many stores and shops inside the station.
With every step, those people generate body heat, and the Swedes are tired of letting it all go to waste.
Turning Body Heat Into Renewable Energy
Jernhuset, a state-owned property administration company, plans to use the body heat from the millions of people who visit Stockholm Central Station each year to heat an office building, small hotel and several shops in a new complex being built near the station.
"So many people go through the Central Station ... We want to harness some of the warmth they produce to help heat the new building," said Karl Sundholm, project leader for Jernhuset in an interview with AFP.
A New Use for Old Technology
Jernhuset will use the station’s ventilation system to capture the body heat generated by people who pass through Central Station every day, and use the energy to warm water that will be pumped through pipes to the new complex, which is expected to be completed in early 2010.
"This is old technology, but used in a new way. It's just pipes, water and pumps, but we haven't heard of anyone else using this technology in this way before," Sundholm said.
A High Return on Low Investment
The company expects the innovative system to lower heating costs in the new complex by as much as 20 percent—and for a relatively small investment. Creating the new heating system, including installing the necessary pumps and laying the underground pipes, is expected to cost around 200,000 kronor (21,200 euros or 31,200 dollars).
"For a large building expected to cost several hundred million kronor to build, that's not that much," Sundholm told AFP.
Human Body Heat: Coming Soon to a Building Near You
Given the abundance of human body heat worldwide and the growing need for renewable energy to replace increasingly costly and unsustainable fossil fuels that cause pollution and contribute to global warming, using body heat to warm buildings is almost certain to be adopted elsewhere if this new Swedish project succeeds as expected.
Don't be surprised if more architects and builders start looking for ways to formally incorporate human body heat into their designs for heating and cooling both commercial and residential buildings.