fossil fuel free Vaxjo (and construction practices)

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Vaxjo power plant

The Swedish government has subsidized a variety of projects with the goal of reducing car and energy use. These programs have included everything from widening cycle paths to providing new wood-burning stoves to individual homes. Sweden plans to become the world's first country that's based on a fossil fuel free economy.

Vaxjo, Sweden, set a goal in 1996, to become fossil fuel free by mid-century. Production of energy from biomass is the main component of the plan. Other major parts of the plan include using biofuel for cars/ buses and installation of solar panels in homes, municipal buildings and industry buildings. Vaxjo already derives over 50% of its energy from renewables. A share of renewable energy is brought in from outside the city, with hydropower as the leading source of imported energy. However, Vaxjo is well known for production of organic biomass energy.

Sanvik II is the name for the power plant in Vaxjo. Sanvik II uses biomass, which provides heat and electricity for most of the housing and industry in the city. Wood chips, bark and peat produced by logging, are the sole sources of fuel for the plant. The need for fossil fuels has dropped steadily as biomass has taken over as a dominant energy source for the city.

Vaxjo meets energy efficiency goals by doing everything from using solar panels in public buildings, to district heating, to the practice of timber construction. Vaxjo's building practices increase energy efficiency, reducing the energy demand to the municipality. The construction of energy efficient housing allows more resources to be devoted to the reduction of fossil fuel dependence.

Buildings in Vaxjo must conform to strict standards. The construction processes, as well as the energy spent on maintenance of the building, maximize energy efficiency. Use of the latest insulation technology, as well as individual smart metering of heat, water and electricity, are some of the ways in which energy efficiency in new construction is maintained. Air-tight construction and energy efficient windows are also used, with particular effectiveness in "passive" buildings.

Heating in a passive home consists of heat trapped from the sun's rays, residents themselves and electrical appliances, as premium insulation ensures heat is not lost. This practice of using timber, air-tight construction and excellent insulation to build passive homes is a popular technique for some prefab home manufacturers, particularly in Sweden.