Future energy solutions tested in Turku

By Matti Välimäki

Autumn 2022

The Turku Student Village is being turned into an energy positive residential area that will produce more energy than it consumes. As a part of the EU-Response project, the Student Village will also serve as a unique testing laboratory for new innovations.

Funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 programme, the Response project is developing smart and carbon-neutral solutions for energy production, building technology and mobility in sustainable cities.

Representing Turku in the project is the largest single student housing complex in Finland with some 4,000 residents, the Turku Student Village.

Project Coordinator Sini Lamoureux says that new innovations are currently being introduced in the area, especially in the newly completed Tyyssija building.

"For example, the building has a new kind of energy system where the heat pump is supplied by return heat from district cooling, i.e. surplus heat recovered from other properties."

On the roof of Tyyssija, there will be two-sided solar panels that can also tap into the sunbeams refl ected from the building’s roof. In the past, similar panels have only been used in larger solar power plants.

New kinds of energy storage solutions are also being tested at Tyyssija.

"We are storing electricity in a system made of used electric car batteries. The site will also have phase change storage that uses different kinds of salts for thermal energy storage. A solution like this takes up less space than a conventional hot-water tank."

Upgrades are happening in other parts of the Student Village as well, such as extensive energy effi ciency renovations for older buildings in the complex. For example, apartments will be equipped with nano coating 4-glazing panels windows, energyeffi cient ventilation and water-saving nozzles for taps.

"We are turning the Student Village into an energy positive area, with 120 to 130% of its energy needs produced in a climate-friendly way."

Wide cooperation network
There has been a wide cooperation network participating in the development of the innovations in Tyyssija and other Student Village sites.

Turku-based partners are the City of Turku, the Student Village Foundation of Turku, Turku Energia, Turku City Data and Turku University of Applied Sciences. The project has also received scientifi c support from VTT Ltd.

"We also have several corporate partners around Finland who we have provided with a testing platform."

October 2022 will see the start of a three-year monitoring period with the purpose of gathering information on how functional and practical the new innovations are.

"Whenever you develop something new, you’ll have some inventions that work well and others that are less effective than expected. But even a single new solution can have a huge impact if it is something that can be used in other places as well."

Lamoureux mentions some more innovations in Tyyssija: "The apartments have sensors that help optimise heating. Tyyssija will also have a V2G charging point for electric cars, which will make it possible for residents to sell electricity stored in their car batteries to the grid if they do not need it for themselves."

Spreading innovations around
The objective of the Response project is to specifi cally create solutions that can be reproduced. Turku and Dijon in France are the pilot sites of the project, followed subsequently by Brussels (Belgium), Zaragoza (Spain), Botoșani (Romania) Ptolemaida (Greece), Gabrovo (Bulgaria) and Severodonetsk (Ukraine) (Latest information before the city was taken over by Russian forces was that the Ukrainians want to stay involved in the project).

"The idea is that the subsequent cities will draw up a plan on how they can implement the innovations of the pilot cities."

An effort will also be made to utilise the solutions elsewhere in Turku, especially in Turku Science Park and the Runosmäki residential area.

"The Response project is also one way of bringing Turku closer to its goal of being carbon neutral by 2029", says Lamoureux.

Lecturer Samuli Ranta from Turku University of Applied Sciences was also interviewed for this article.

Fast travel from Turku Science Park to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area

An internationally signifi cant cluster of expertise merging science and business in line with sustainable development is being built in Turku. The one-hour Turku Rail Link will add Turku Science Park under the commuting umbrella of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

A fairly compact area in Turku features two universities of applied sciences, the Student Village, the hospital complex and a signifi cant number of businesses.

Director of Urban Planning Timo Hintsanen says that the area in question, titled Turku Science Park, is now being expanded and made into a more integrated entity.

"The idea is to promote encounters that facilitate creative innovations. Cooperation also opens up other synergic benefits; for example, the area already has a new resource-smart laboratory shared by two universities."

Turku Science Park is mainly located in the districts of Kupittaa and Itäharju. The plan is to integrate these two areas even more closely together with a deck structure that will reach across the railway and motorway and feature several green areas.

On the other hand, the railway will connect the area closely to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. With the high-speed Turku Rail Link, the journey from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area to Turku Science Park would take about an hour.

"And within Turku Science Park, everything would be less than a 10 minute walk away."

The area is also well-connected to the rest of Turku:

"There is a plan for a tramway to pass through the Science Park, and the area is easy to reach by bus as well. We’ll also have urban planning that supports cycling and walking – but primarily not private car use."

Construction is already ongoing in Turku Science Park, and the entire area will be completed by 2050. The aim is that, by then, more than one million new square metres will have been built in the area, with apartments for more than 20,000 Turku residents and over 10,000 new jobs created compared to today.

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 766464.