The Finnish capital Helsinki saw large amounts of snowfall in 2009–2013 compared to average snowfall.
By Ville Alatyppö, City of Helsinki
The inner city of Helsinki is located on the seashore on a narrow cape far away from sites where snow could be dumped, and the issue has been resolved by dumping snow into the sea. The emissions caused by this solution have been considerably smaller than they would be from transporting snow to the nearest snow dump.
Helsinki’s strategy is to be the most functional city in the world. Even the development of snow logistics is aimed at this very same goal because if snow logistics do not run smoothly in wintertime, we are forced to close streets, which has never happened thus far.
A public innovation challenge was started for the development of snow management in Helsinki. This is Snow Problem competition looked for new partners and ideas on how to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of the different phases of snow management. The jury weighed in on the ideas on a few occasions during the competition. Twelve ideas were submitted to the competition, four of which were selected for the pilot phase.
The best solutions focused on reducing the need to transport snow, streamlining storage and reducing the environmental impact of dumping snow into the sea, among others. “The solutions we received were taking ideas we already know about further and combining them with new technology. The competition showed that even solutions that seemed impossible might just be possible,” says Production Manager Tero Koppinen from operative maintenance of the City of Helsinki.
The first company to be selected for the pilot phase was measurement technology company Sensmet Oy with a solution that measures the water generated by melting snow in real-time. This creates big data, which is then analyzed to provide information on how, where and when snow should be processed and thawed.
The shared solution by A&T Subsea Oy and Ullanlinnan Treselex Oy streamlines the dumping of snow into the sea and reduces its environmental impact. The versatile proposal reduces the number of snow transportation trips and the amount of litter winding up in the sea while also reducing CO2 emissions. This solution is very easy to adopt, and it can be used to reduce the adverse effects of dumping snow into the sea as soon as the coming winter.
The third solution to be selected was designed by W-Rix Oy to prevent the sea from freezing. The sea freezes when large quantities of snow are dumped into it. The solution is an affordable and low-emission way of keeping the waterways clear and reducing the need for dredging.
The fourth solution came from LumiPower Oy, a company developing snow thawing technology. In the solution, snow is thawed using thermal energy contained in a backwater from district heating or other sources of waste heat already at the location where the snowfalls. This would allow only water thawed from snow and cleaned of any debris to enter the sea. The competition proposal aims at minimizing the environmental impact of the entire snow management chain. The goal is to reduce snow transportation significantly along with the number of machines and the amount of noise and emissions.
The ideas and innovations received through the "This is Snow Problem" competition are so promising that they will definitely be developed and trialled further with all four companies. The competition was organized by Industryhack Oy. It developed a model that brings innovative entrepreneurs and potential customers together while also fulfilling the requirements set out in the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts. We now know that snow logistics can be further developed into a more functional system that puts a lesser strain on the environment while keeping development costs reasonable.