In Europe's greenest city, even its power plant smells more like a sauna
It doesn't look like the heart of a green revolution. The smoke stacks stick up jarringly above the line of pine trees and don't make for the most scenic view as you meander around the clear blue waters of the nearby lake.
But it is this power plant that has helped the small Swedish city of Växjö (pronounced vek-shur) become arguably the greenest place in Europe. On closer observation, the only thing emerging from the chimneys is the faintest wisp of steam. And inside it smells more like a sauna than a furnace. That's because it is not oil fuelling the plant, but woodchip and other wood waste from the area's sawmills. And as well as generating electricity, it also supplies 90 per cent of this southern Swedish town with heating and hot water.
"We are in the middle of the woodshed and we wanted to take advantage of that," explained Tommy Sandh, who works in the control room.
The gases produced as the wood burns are condensed into liquid form, and are purified before they reach the chimney. And instead of dumping this liquid, the power plant pumps it around town. Some gushes piping hot out of the town's taps; the rest is directed through plumbing that runs through individual heaters, warming homes and offices.
The pile of wood chippings in the yard towers above head height and takes almost five minutes to stroll around. According to Mr Sandh, that's enough to keep Växjö warm on the snowiest day in winter, or supply it with hot water for a fortnight in summer, and it's a good way of using the paper industry's waste. As well as the centuries-old Swedish policy of planting a new tree for every one felled, the ashes swept out of the furnace each day find their way back to the forest as fertiliser.