CopenHill: The Story of Iconic Clean Energy Plant With Its Own Ski Slope

In Copenhagen, there is a bizarre-looking yet almost fitting skyline building; the building in question is called Amager Bakke (CopenHill).

How would you feel living 200m away from a waste incineration plant? Could the ability to ski down its roof make it palatable? Well, that is what the residents of Copenhagen face. 

Built within an industrial area of Copenhagen and visible from miles around, Amager Bakke is a bizarre-looking building that houses a waste-to-energy plant designed to provide up to 72,000 homes with power. Right from its inception, the aim was to be economically, environmentally, and socially profitable, and the plant converts 440,000 tons of waste into energy annually. 

Rather than house the plant in a corner that would soon be unfavorable to nearby residents, the architects at the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) decided that the building would be of better use to the public to enjoy through the seasons: hiking trails, playgrounds, and fitness structures during the summer, and ski slopes during the winter.

The building houses all the machinery for the plant inside and requires a complicated structure constructed using steel. This superstructure, whose facade constitutes 1,000 aluminum bricks on steel sandwich panels, is a testament to architecture. The placement of machinery within is based on their height, thus creating a ski slope the size of two-and-a-half soccer fields.

The plant ingests up to 300 truckloads of waste on any given day, waste that is leftover from recycling and sorting household and business-generated waste across the metropolitan area. 

The plant integrates technology dubbed “DynaGrate” which does not require a stoppage when situations such as metal content in the waste occur. DynaGrate is also water-cooled, thus reducing NOx formation and energy used up by fans. These factors contribute to lower operating costs than traditional methods.

However, Copenhagen’s increasing efficiency in reuse and recycling has now presented a new problem: the plant is running out of its most important fuel source, rubbish. A decision to import rubbish from Denmark's neighbors had to be made to keep up energy production.

Another issue the plant faces is a dispute regarding much-needed repairs for the ski slope between the owner Amager Bakke and its insurance company Tryg. The ski slope is at risk of an indefinite closure if the foundation loses its case to win repairs estimated at $1.5 million.

Amager Bakke and Denmark set an interesting question: what does the future hold? What if we all become so efficient? Only time will tell if the building gets reduced to merely an architectural feat.