Fueling the Sochi Olympics

Powering a 17-day event that draws thousands of people from around the world is no trivial task, which is why organizers have been planning how to fuel the 2014 Winter Olympics since the Russian city on the Black Sea won its Olympic bid. Several years ago Sochi committed to following stringent environmental standards for the Winter Olympics, including carbon neutrality and zero-waste. Organizers planned to achieve this goal through investments in renewable energy facilities, energy-efficient infrastructure, and carbon offsetting. While this objective offered a chance to improve the country’s environmental image, it achieved mixed results.

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Ramping Up

Russia’s energy use consists of 90% fossil fuels (mostly natural gas) and 10% renewables (US EIA, 2011). The two major thermal power stations built to provide electricity for the Olympic games, the Dzhubginsky power plant and Adlerskaya power plant, are powered by natural gas. These power plants offer improved efficiency and environmental standards than older plants. Existing thermal power plants and hydroelectric plants also received renovations. Distanced from major pipelines and transmission lines, Sochi constructed a new power grid that would bring 8 times more electricity to the city, generated by the dozens of new energy projects launched for the Olympics.

Other energy projects include generating wind and solar energy at Olympic facilities and new public transportation stations, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from the energy used by facilities and travelers, and constructing energy-efficient Olympic infrastructure. One of the milestones of this year’s Olympics is Russia’s first national environmental standard for green construction, which was applied to the construction of Olympic facilities.

Descent from Environmental Goals

Although Dow has sponsored carbon offsets for carbon dioxide emissions directly related to the games, some argue it is challenging to estimate the total emissions tied to the Olympics.  Moreover, the goal of zero waste will not be met, the most flagrant reason being the illegal dumping of construction waste. Environmental scientists and activists have also been shunned regarding their concerns for ecosystems affected by construction of the Olympic facilities, roadways, and railways. Massive spending, exceeding the combined sum of all previous Winter Olympic budgets, also relates to the environmental evaluation of the Olympics. A portion of the extra spending came from construction projects that needed to be redone, wasting materials and energy.

And the score is…

Check out some of the numbers related to energy and the environment at the Winter Olympics.

1/3 Fraction of Olympic energy demand supplied by the new Adlerskaya thermal power plant.

13 Days before the Opening Ceremony when the new power grid was put to work.

25 Percent of Olympic energy provided by the Dzhubinsky thermal power station.

49 Number of major energy projects initiated, according to Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

51 Cost in billions of US dollars of the Sochi Winter Olympics, exceeding the initial budget by dozens of billions of dollars.

56 Percent of Russia’s energy consumption that is natural gas.

106 Miles of natural gas pipeline, which travels under the Black Sea, needed to reach the new Adlerskaya power station.

120 Number of diesel generators used for Olympic facilities and as emergency back-up.

180 Capacity in Megawatts of the Dzhubinsky thermal power station.

230 Millions of gallons of water converted to artificial snow at Rosa Khutor, used for alpine skiing events.

310 Millions of dollars used to construct the Dzhubinsky thermal power station.

500 Number of substations in the power grid.

560 Miles of power cable in the new power grid.

8000 Acres of Sochi National Park affected by Olympic-related construction.

520,000 Metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions offset by Dow, including 360,000 tons from Olympic operations and 160,000 tons from spectators.

Although Sochi may not win a green medal, the successes and failures in meeting one of the loftiest Olympic environmental goals will hopefully help the International Olympic Committee in its choice of future candidate cities and help future Olympic organizers in their long-term environmental plans.

One thought on “Fueling the Sochi Olympics

  1. Wow! This is a really informative read, Sarah. I had no idea Sochi had committed to such stringent environmental standards… considering all the negative reports coming out of how these Olympics were organized, it’s shocking that such a thing could have even been a realistically-designed goal. Thanks for including the e/e numbers, many of which are equally shocking!

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