This first term I’ve been spoiled by the amount of fascinating, inspiring field trips we’ve taken in our class. There are two “welcome to this program” courses, Introduction to Energy Systems (first year), and Energy Systems (second year). Since I’m currently studying both of these classes (trying to catch up to the third year students, who I am supposedly studying with!), I’ve been getting an overdose of field trips.
In the first period, Introduction to Energy Systems went to Dalarna where we traveled around in a gigantic tour bus with an air of epic safari adventure, visiting different sites and learning about energy production, usage and distribution. It was an action packed three days and little time was left for eating or sleeping. Among the many visits to different companies, my favorites were by far our visit at Hedins sawmill, SSAB (steel mill if you didn’t already know), a paper mill, and a hydro-power dam. While apart from the dam, all of these places may seem more like energy consumers than producers (which is in large part true), all of them have taken steps to capture waste heat from production. This is in large part possible due to Sweden’s extensive district heating network (of which about 7% comes from waste heat) that can incorporate waste heat from industry and deliver it to residential homes.
There is nothing more incredible than seeing the creation of completely normal objects. At the SSAB steel mill, we watched as a glowing hunk of steel the size of two snuggling school buses emerged from an oven that could possibly have been Peter Jacksons prototype for the fires of Mordor. We watched as this gigantic brick of radiating metal was pounded into a thin sheet (in a process called rolling) and rolled up into what looked like the world’s largest and most inconvenient toilet-paper roll. At this point it was transformed into its more recognizable form: sheet metal.
This last week I was shuttled over to Göteborg with the Energy Systems class where we visited a Preem refinery, the Volvo factory and AkzoNobel, where they manufacture ethylene amines and tensides, which are basically some scary sounding chemicals that are in everything from plastic bags to coffee filters. This field trip had a decidedly different feel to it than the trip to Dalarna. While the whole Energy Systems program has a very strong focus on renewable energy, this trip had an obvious focus on fossil fuels. Another different was whereas previous field trips have mostly been at government run facilities (or at least, owned by the kommun), this trip had an unmistakable feeling of commercialism about it.
In any case, the point of these field trips and, indeed, these two courses is obviously to inspire us at the beginning of our chosen field and I can definitely say that the goal has been reached.