Huairou New Town currently exists on paper. But when it is completed, this city north of China's capital Beijing will be totally CO2 neutral and entirely powered by renewable energies.
China has overtaken the US as the world's largest CO2 producer
With 80,000 residents, Huairou New Town has been designed to function without recourse to fossil fuels. That’s why the surrounding woods have been taken into account -- they will serve as biomass reserves. Other important aspects in the city’s planning are sunlight and wind direction. The buildings will be cooled by natural ventilation in summer and will be protected from the cold in winter.
Energy efficient urban structures
The main concept is to optimise the urban structures by reducing the energy demand for buildings. ``The remaining demand will be provided with local renewable resources like biomass, sun, hydropower, waste, and sludge from anaerobic digestion of sewage water. We also consider the water cycle, not only water supply but also water treatment,’’ explains Paula Caputo from Milan Polytechnic.
Caputo has been deputed by the environment ministries of Italy and China to develop a vision for the cities of the future -- a model for climate neutral urban planning. This model would involve developing a town with short distances so that people can travel easily by foot or by bicycle. This, combined with an effective public transportation system, would reduce the use of cars. Shared cars or car pooling would also be part of the model.
Biofuel or solar power for cars
Alternative fuels will also be used for the cars. ``The concept is to supply cars with biofuels that are produced in the district, or buy electricity, which is taken from the grid and is basically renewable, or it can produced from the photovoltaic system on the roof," says Caputo.
In the United States, Australia and Europe such hybrid cars, which run on biodiesel or electricity, are already very popular. In Huairou, electricity will be made available at petrol stations. The cars will also have another function -- the built-in car batteries will serve as sources of energy. When there is high demand the city will be able to put electricity back into the grid from the solar collectors.
Huairou – a feasible dream?
Although Huairou at the moment is just a plan, experts believe it is only a question of time until the first cities based on this sort of green vision start cropping up in Asia, where the economies and populations are booming and energy-efficiency is top of the agenda. A similar project is also being developped on Chongming island near Shanghai.
Yet the ambitious zero emission city plan has had its share of criticism. While some question the cost and feasibility of the project, many experts fear that the city would become a community for wealthy citizens seeking an escape from the smog and traffic of bigger cities.