Friday, May 11, 2012

NORDPLUS 2012

During the last few days of April, ten Enve students set off for Estonia where we participated in Nordplus intensive course about Sustainable Water and Energy Management. During the 5 day course, we visited various sites related to the topic, received lectures, and had a day of workshop and presentations. Along with us, ten Icelanders and ten Estonians took part in the course. The days were quite long, but nevertheless we used our time efficiently and had plenty of time to go around town and enjoy the local pubs. Quite a lot of time was spent in bus going from place to place, but even there we played various word games, laughed until we cried telling jokes or just conveniently slept.
On Sunday morning 22nd April most of us met up at the Tampere railway station, and the rest joined in Helsinki. This was our first trip together so we were all excited and a bit scared. After the ferry, the bus took us straight to Tallinn Technical University for dinner and then to our hostel. Since the Estonian teachers or the reception lady did not speak any English it took over an hour of half Finnish, half Estonian, and a bit of Russian to get settled in. After quick freshening up we found the nearest shop, bought some supplies and aimed for the city. Our salsa dancer Elina talked us into heading for a salsa bar called Cubanita, but despite our obvious concern, the place turned out to be a great one! Cheap snacks and beer, reasonably quiet music, and shisha created a perfect atmosphere for a first night in Tallinn.
Monday and Tuesday we spent in western Estonia where we took a ferry to Muhu and Saaremaa islands, and spent a night in city of Kuressaar. First stop was monastery of Padise for some sightseeing after which we visited two local heating plants one powered by straw and the other by wood chips. Both plants were small and simple, but that is exactly where the ingenuity hides. Both are fueled by local fuels and maintained by one part time worker making them cheaper and more environmentally friendly than their preceding fossil fuel plants. In the evening we socialized with rest of the students and had quite a blast which we felt in the morning when visiting a pig farm. The reason for this visit was the farms attempts to be more sustainable by producing most of the heating and electricity consumed onsite from pig manure. The most amusing part of the day was the visit of meteorite crater in Kaali. The site was amazing, but the one-hour movie filled with far-fetched ideas that midsummer bonfires are a consequence of the meteorite left me with mixed feelings.
Wednesday we stayed near Tallinn and the topic of the day was water. First we visited drinking water treatment plant then wastewater treatment plant and finally hydropower plant. The first two plants were large and modern plants supplying Tallinn and reminded much of the plants in Finland. The hydropower plant was a small-scale plant built besides one of the only Estonian waterfalls. To be honest, most of us seemed more amused by the nature there than the plant itself. The only water unrelated visit was a wind power plant in Paldiski where 8 wind turbines are spinning since 2004. The size of them is indeed impressive, but unfortunately their cost of construction is economically unviable without massive government subsidies.
Considering that the following day we had a 3-hour bus ride in the morning, we happily joined our Estonian and Icelandic friends in the Old Town at night. We had reserved a table at St. Patrick’s pub where they offered 4 beers for 8 euros so needless to say.. we loved the place! After few rounds of beers and snacks some folks headed home and some headed to the next bar. Thursday was all about oil shale. We started with a lecture about Narva power plants, both of which are powered by oil shale, an organic-rich kerogen containing sedimentary rocks that can be burn just as coal or used to produce shale oil. Somehow the burning of oil shale for power didn’t seem to be the best solution from environmental point of view since the extraction is energy demanding, the use is water demanding and the burning process creates 50% ashes. After the lecture we took a trip through the power plant and to be honest it was a little scary and reminded much of Soviet Union times. There seemed to be more broken parts around than working ones and it felt like something’s going to fall on your head any moment.
On Friday we had a short lecture in the morning after which the groups that we have been divided into (2 Finns, 2 Estonians, 2 Icelanders) had some time to prepare the presentations. Since all the groups had to present the same thing (energy and drinking water in Estonia/Finland/Iceland) a lot of the information was overlapping, but somehow each of the groups managed to present something new. We were done with the presentations by 3 so we had plenty of time to do some shopping and walk around the town. Since it was the last evening in Tallinn we decided to book a large table in a Sushi restaurant together with all the Icelanders and some of the Estonians. After some wine and the best sushi I have ever had we returned to Cubanita for some shisha before continuing to old town where we remained until the early morning hours. Participants: Aki Salminen, Anton Sundgren, Arturs Alsins, Zarrin Jafri, Ilmari Kalaoja, Juha Le Tortorec, Kevin Larivieri, Elina Suhonen, Charlene Nothnagel, Ines Klammer. Photos by: Anton Sundgren, Text: Arturs Alsins

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