A power station is not just an “energy factory.” Of course, energy production is its core function, so basically everything revolves – no pun intended – around a turbine. In reality, though, the plant needs far more to function and fulfil its purpose – connections, buildings, industrial and civil infrastructure, offices, car parks and hydraulic, electrical and thermal installations. And when a power plant no longer has a role to play in the energy system, all this can be recovered and repurposed. Enel Produzione is certain that this is the way forward and, in order to redevelop a series of 23 decommissioned plants and a former mining area, it has launched Futur-e, a large-scale circular economy project whose aim is to transform existing plant by giving it a new purpose. This is to be brought about by working with local communities in the areas where the installations are located.
“We at Enel are ahead of the curve in realising that our former power plants are the perfect platform for those seeking to invest in new activities,” says Marco Fragale, head of the Futur-e project. “For every decommissioned site the first step is to carry out an analysis to see whether it’s possible to use the site for new operations within the Group.”
This is what’s happening at Carpi, near Modena, where the former gas turbine power plant in Fossoli is being transformed into an innovative logistics hub for Enel.
“The company intends to create two logistics hubs in northern Italy, and we’ve made Futur-e sites available for both of them,” Fragale continues. “The first one will be in a section of the plant at Trino, near Vercelli, while the remaining area is involved in a redevelopment project presented by local entrepreneurs. At Carpi, on the other hand, the entire site of the old plant will be given over to the logistics hub project.”
The total area involved is around 76,000 m2. The plant came on stream in the late 1980s. During its period of major use, i.e. until 1999, it helped ensure the security of Italy’s national grid by fulfilling energy requirements during periods of especially high demand and in case of emergency. Changing needs on the energy scene led to a noticeable reduction in the Carpi plant’s operations. As a result, Enel Produzione announced its decision to wind down operations, and was given the go-ahead for full decommissioning in 2013.
Then, in 2017, redevelopment work began, based on the key concept of “sustainability.” “The demolition of the gas turbine units, storage tanks and other structures has enabled us to recover tons of steel,” says Cristiano Mariniello, Engineering and Construction Project Manager for Enel Global Thermal Generation. “The materials from the demolition were recovered as scrap and sent for smelting. We also recovered 42 tons of copper from cables, alternators and transformers, as well as 40 tons of aluminium.”
Enel Produzione has chosen to adopt sustainable solutions throughout the project. Selective demolition has also enabled immediate on-site reuse of 3,000 cubic metres of crushed concrete. This means waste is kept to a minimum, thereby transforming materials that would otherwise be thrown away or used for scrap into new material resources. Sustainable solutions are also being applied to the logistics hub project, like LED lamps, waste water phyto-purification systems and rainwater collection to irrigate green areas and for the fire extinguishing system.
Carpi’s mayor, Alberto Bellelli, also confirms that the town is an example of the practical application of all the principles behind Futur-e. “When a private organisation is ready to take on this level of investment, concepts like regeneration, reuse and no further land use assume a real, practical meaning. The project has sparked off an extremely positive debate in the town. People especially appreciate the way the site will be regenerated by using scrap and taking advantage of scientific methods to avoid any adverse environmental impact.”
The former power plant is now ready to take a step in a new direction while retaining links with the past. Simple cycle gas turbine plants like the Carpi installation were never intended for continuous production – they were built in order to provide security and stability for the national grid by coming on stream rapidly to cope with peaks in demand. The site confirms Enel’s commitment to strategic oversight by transforming the plant into a logistics hub supporting the Enel Group’s everyday operations.