Atlas Copco compresses air for 100% oil-free snow for Alpine skiing World Championships in Åre
The Alpine skiing World Championships will be held in Åre, Sweden, from 2-18 February 2007. Atlas Copco technology is making quick, clean and efficient production of artificial snow a reality on Åre’s slopes, contributing to limiting the environmental impact of the winter sports.
Three Z series Atlas Copco oil-free rotary screw air compressors were installed in autumn 2005 to compress the air which mixes with water in the nozzles of the 170 York Snow cannons producing snow on the Åreskutan ski slopes. The first in the world certified to generate 100% oil-free air, the compressors ensure totally oil free, high pressure air for snow cannons on the World Championship courses.
Pure white snow is sprayed out by snow cannons onto Åreskutan, a mountain in the heart of Sweden within the Sami community of Kall. In winter skiers pack the slopes where the Sami graze their reindeer. This puts a tremendous strain on this sensitive area which is why it is so important to focus on minimizing environmental impact. “We have to meet stringent environmental demands here on the Indalsälven slopes and these compressors enable us to finally produce pure and very safe snow for our Alpine ski facilities,” says Björn Olsson, technical director of SkiStar in Åre, the company owning and operating the ski facilities.
Located in the red painted compressor hall by the finishing area of the Åreskutan downhill course (and visible in World Championship television coverage), are three large Atlas Copco ZR 750 air compressors. Atlas Copco’s Z series of oil-free rotary screw compressors were certified by the German testing organization TÜV (Technische Überwachungs-Verein) to ISO 8573-1 CLASS 0, representing zero oil content. This was the first time the quality of compressed air achieved a 0 certification. The certification was performed using the most stringent test methods available, in which average and extreme industrial installation environments were simulated. No traces of oil were detected during these rigorous tests.
The Municipality of Åre has set a high priority on environmental efforts as part of UN Agenda 21 work, with the aim of creating a sustainable community. To this end, Åre signed the Earth Charter 2002, which brings together social, economic, democratic and ethical aspects with ecological factors in sustainability initiatives.
Eva Hellstrand, a local government commissioner in Åre, believes environmental thinking is crucial, bearing in mind the extensive and sensitive mountain areas.
“The investments made by SkiStar, including those that enable the production of clean snow with oil free compressed air are naturally a very positive development. It is also fantastic to see a Swedish company like Atlas Copco leading the way in environmentally friendly technology that means we can safeguard our environment for future generations.
It is absolutely imperative that winter sports are as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible, as we want to counter the negative climate changes we are witnessing. And naturally, we also want to continue having natural snow in the future,” says Hellstrand.
Plenty of natural snow falls in the winter, but it is artificial snow that extends and guarantees the skiing season in late autumn and spring. According to Björn Olsson, technical director of the skiing facilities, the previous compressors were based on old technology and unfortunately deposited traces of oil in the compressed air output. “With the older air compressors, that were a different brand, you could actually see a slight discoloring in the artificial snow in certain circumstances,” says Olsson.
Henrik Andersson manages the 24 people who lay snow in Åre. He has also noticed a big difference environmentally: “With oil-injected compressors, you can feel an oily greasy film in the nozzles of the snow cannons out on the slopes. That is really not good. However with these new oil free compressors, that problem is now behind us. This is a major gain for the environment and it is great to have compressors that work uninterruptedly when it is cold and when we can and must seize the opportunity to produce snow,” says Andersson. “We have also been able to increase the air pressure by 2 bar to 10 bar [end of pipe pressure] which means we can produce more snow more quickly now and extend the season,” adds Andersson. “Now when we are operating flat out, we can spray out 1,600 cubic meters of water per hour which when combined with the clean oil free compressed air, creates 4,000 cubic meters or 1,600,000 kg of snow per hour,” Andersson explains.
Björn Olsson, technical director of the skiing facilities in Åre, is impressed by the operational reliability of the compressors: “We no longer have to spend time repairing compressors like we did before. I estimate we will be able to save over SEK 250,000 [circa euro 27 000] a year in the future in reduced costs. We have a full service agreement with Atlas Copco and we also have our own inspection program,” says Olsson.
“We have been using the new oil free air compressors for a whole season now and it is wonderful to see how well they work and how clean the snow is. I am a family man myself with children here and looking to the future, it naturally feels good that we are taking care of the mountain area,” says Mats Berge, a SkiStar manager. “For Åre as a skiing destination the clean, oil free artificial snow ought to be a sales argument to attract environmentally aware skiers,” claims Berge.
Water for the production of the snow is continuously collected in a dam at 900 meters above sea level. The water is a mixture of water pumped from the Indalsälven river and rain and melt water. This enables snow to be produced below the dam under gravity pressure, which is highly energy efficient. Clean oil-free air is produced for a central compressed air system for two types of snow cannon in Åre: 170 York Snow cannons with fixed towers; and 20 older, smaller portable models. The Atlas Copco oil-free rotary screw compressors introduce further substantial energy savings, as the Z compressors are amongst the most energy-efficient in the industry. In choosing Atlas Copco, SkiStar is making the choices today which favor sustainable development of the Åre slopes for years to come.
SkiStar is listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange’s O-list. The group owns and operates alpine destinations in Sälen, Åre and Vemdalen in Sweden, and Hemsedal and Trysil in Norway. SkiStar has owned and operated the Åre ski center since 1999. The 40 lifts and 100 runs now have permanent snow cannons installed all the way up to the top of the mountain, over 1,200 meters above sea level, and along a 6,500 meter prepared slope with a drop of fully 890 meters. When the whole of the Alpine complex around Åreskutan is open, there is 450 hectares of prepared slopes to ski on, or the equivalent of around 900 football pitches. For more information: www.SkiStar.com/are
Atlas Copco’s Compressor Technique business area develops, manufactures, markets, and services oil-free and oil-injected stationary air compressors, portable air compressors, gas and process compressors, turbo expanders, electric power generators, air treatment equipment and air management systems. It also offers specialty rental services. It innovates for superior productivity in applications such as manufacturing, construction, and the process industry worldwide. Principal product development and main manufacturing units are in Antwerp, Belgium. More information is available on www.atlascopco.com
Oil-free Air is a division within Atlas Copco's Compressor Technique business area. It develops, manufactures, and markets oil-free air compressors for all kind of industries worldwide where the air quality is vital, and oil-injected compressors for less critical applications. The division focuses on air optimization systems, aftermarket products and quality air solutions to further improve customers’ productivity. The divisional headquarters and main production center are located in Antwerp, Belgium.