What does pre-industrial air feel like? – Without a working time machine, that’s a tough question to answer. However, the visitors at Wärtsilä’s Sustainable Technology Hub (STH) in Vaasa may check out the Auditorium Archipelago on the ground floor of STH and discover the next best thing.
Thanks to a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) connected CO2 capture unit – courtesy of the Finnish startup Soletair Power – carbon dioxide is radically reduced from the air before it enters the auditorium. The captured CO2 will then be liquefied and stored to a special tank outside the building.
What all this means, basically, is that the air coming into the auditorium – which seats 150 people – will have 50% less CO2 to breathe. The breathing air in the room will have such a low CO2 level it could compete with Victorian times.
Henri Karimäki, Program Manager, Power-to-X, Sustainability & Future Plant Concepts at Wärtsilä, reports that the CO2 capture unit has already been installed at STH and will be up and running in early 2023.
“We’re excited to be launching this new technology here at STH which, of course, has a very strong focus on innovation,” Karimäki says. Wärtsilä is also one of the original funders of Soletair Power.
Jukka Rapo, Facility & Energy Manager, Real Estate, Wärtsilä Finland, says that the work on the unit started already in 2021, with the installation of the first steel structures.
“Overall, the installed package covers capture filters, automation systems, heaters, coolers and pumps, among other things,” Rapo explains.
Capturing CO2 from building ventilation is no gimmick – it’s actually a genuine performance-booster. With less CO2 in the room, your brain moves quicker and ideas are generated more easily. This is also one of the reasons why Wärtsilä thought that the STH Auditorium would be a great place to introduce the innovation: that fresh air might well spark up speakers and listeners alike.
According to estimates, the Direct Air Capture (DAC) of CO2 for the auditorium will result in 50 kilograms of CO2 per day. The big question that follows is, how to utilise the CO2? - After all, CO2 is deployed in industries, such as Food and Construction, and traditionally in greenhouses to make plants grow. High on the list is also the creation of synthetic renewable fuel.
Karimäki and Rapo are convinced that the auditorium’s CO2 will be used in one smart way or another.
“We are presently engaged in various discussions with potential partners in order to find out the next move here,” says Karimäki.
Director Hannu Mäntymaa from Wärtsilä Marine Power notes that there’s no better place for such a sustainable innovation than the Sustainable Technology Hub itself.
“This is truly an inspiring innovation and Wärtsilä is proud to pilot and showcase such technology,” Mäntymaa says, adding that Wärtsilä pursues a decarbonised future by deploying cutting-edge technologies that exist already today.
In fact, Soletair Power’s technology is the first in the world to feature building integration, turning, in essence, entire buildings into carbon sinks. From a building to a block to a borough – entire cities can, conceivably, go carbon neutral driven by such ground-breaking solutions.
The STH auditorium is, of course, just one location – but it’s a starting point and sure to inspire all visitors. “We have a great situation here where the quality of the air itself is improved – and we’re taking that CO2 to build something sustainable, too,” concludes Karimäki.