San Martino di Castrozza represents a virtuous example from an energy point of view, so much so that, together with the other municipalities of the Primiero Valleys and Vanoi, it has earned the title of 100% renewable community of the League for the protection of the environment. The territory is autonomous from an energy point of view thanks to hydroelectric production, which is equal to 10 times the local annual consumption, while there are two woody biomass district heating plants built so far. The district heating system of San Martino di Castrozza, in particular, which obtains thermal energy from wood chips, and supplies over 95% of the local users, including the numerous historic hotels.
In this regard, we invite you to read the article, recently published, that talked about the municipalities of the Valleys.
WE ARE NOT ALONE
29th March 2022 STORIES OF THE WEEK
Ten Dolomites municipalities have obtained the so-called “green” certification of energy autonomy. The strength of the Acsm group: electricity from water and wood and district heating on the rise. Prices are unaffected by inflation and save environment strict rules.
The story has begun long ago. The grandfather helped build the dams, the father helped maintain the power plants. Now even Fontana, born in 1980, is responsible for human resources in ACSM, the group of energy companies found from the Consortium Electricity Company of Primiero. But it is not a family story, it is a story of an entire community made up of 18.000 people spread over 10 municipalities; that has been making energy on its own since 1902. Thanks to the renewable resources it finds on the territory, water, and wood. “Our 17 hydroelectric plants produce 450 million kilowatt hours per year, more than 10 times the local consumption of the Primiero and Vanoi valley, while the 2 district heating plants, powered wood waste from forests and sawmills, serve both the inhabitants of the higher villages, such as San Martino di Castrozza and those in the valley, thanks to the 60 km of pipes in our network”. Fontana explains with pride. The incessant work to transform these valleys at the foot of the Dolomites into 100% renewable territories, certified by Legaambiente, began more than a century ago, but it never ended. Indeed, every year, a piece is added.
As the disasters of the climate emergency and the economic damage deriving from the dependence on fossil fuels emerge with greater clarity. The community’s efforts to completely detach itself from gas, oil, have multiplied so much that the territory is now enjoying the favour of tourists looking for a zero-impact holiday. District heating that currently produces 80 thermal gw hours per year and covers about half of the inhabitants, started in the early 2000s. “Just in this period we are connecting hundreds of other families in such a way as to allow those who wish to eliminate the gas or diesel boiler,” Fontana points out. In view of the time, there are so many requests, and for this reason the district heating network is constantly under growth, saving many families and businesses from energy crisis. “Our prices do not depend on the trend in gas prices and have been at a standstill for at least six years, even if, obviously the crisis causes some fluctuations also in the costs of our raw material, the wood chips,” Fontana explains. The wood that feeds the district heating plants comes from local or neighbouring forests within a radius of 70 km. The huge heritage, which occupies 60% of the territories, is owned by the municipalities, a particularity that unites all the territories originally belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The use of resources follows very strict criteria in order not to damage the woods and not to overuse them. Every ten-year period each municipality carries out a substantial study, called “the forest management plan,” with which the individual plants, to be cut, are identified (never a whole portion of wood) in order to ensure the perfect regeneration balance. Thanks to highly sustainable management, all the municipal forests of Primiero and Vanoi benefit from Pan European Forest Certification. This selection allows to establish the market value of timber, which, on average, amounts to about 35.000 cubic meters per year. However, the traditional right for citizens to take free firewood and timber from municipal woods in oder to build a house is always guaranteed.
“The scraps resulting from this work, construction and sawmills, feed district heating. At one time these scraps had to be disposed of at considerable costs, while, now we value them in our plants, where only untreated wood is buried with such a series of filters as from our fireplaces. Almost no smoke comes out,” Fontana points out, always attentive to the environmental impact of each plant. Even the power lines, which are all owned by Acsm, have been always completely buried in order not to have “flying wires” with a considerable landscape benefit and greater safety of the service that is never interrupted by a tree falling on the high voltage cable.