STOCKHOLM --- Today, the Stockholm Royal Seaport, on the western edge of the city, doesn’t look like the City of the Future. It looks more like a museum of the industrial revolution.

The tallest building is an empty oil depot, a silo built in 1910. There’s also a round brick building that once housed a gas plant. Although some construction has taken place in recent years and around 9,000 offices exist here, it is somewhat sparsely populated. Much of the soil is contaminated by petroleum products.

But in a few years, it will be the home of 10,000 smart residences that will only consume 55 kilowatt-hours per square meter of electricity a year -- half of the 110 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year currently permitted in Sweden, which already imposes more stringent standards than the rest of the EU.

Residents will generate only 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year -- again, a huge reduction from the average of 4.5 tons of CO2 emitted per person on average in Stockholm today, which itself is quite low by contemporary standards. Residents in next-door Finland each generate 8 tons on average. (The U.S., which doesn't have nearly the same average heating requirements per capita, emits around 19 tons per person.)

Approximately 30,000 office spaces will also exist in the area, bringing the total of livable real estate to 600,000 square feet or 236 hectares, including open areas. Bike paths, public transportation and charging stations will connect residents to the center, as shown in the artist's rendering included here.

Ferry boats and passenger ships will plug into 40 megawatts of available power capacity instead of running their kitchens, lights and electronics on diesel while in port, a first in the world. An individual ferry can require 12 megawatts of power while in port, and the noise, particulate emissions and vibrations from the engines would make it nearly impossible to put large numbers of offices and apartments here without electrification. Stockholm also can’t get rid of ships: 24 percent of its tourism revenue comes from cruises.

Solar panels, biofuel generators and waste heat capture devices, ideally, will make the region carbon neutral by 2030. The neighborhood might even become carbon negative. Greater Stockholm won’t achieve carbon neutrality until 2050.

And the old round gas works? It will be an opera house.

“In the next 20 years, this city will add 200,000 inhabitants,” said Tomas Gustafsson, the head of environment and sustainability at Stockholm Royal Seaport. “That’s as big as Malmo, our third largest city.”

Construction started three weeks ago and the first residents will arrive in late 2012 or 2013. By 2018, a large portion of the work should be complete.

The idea behind the district is twofold. Although endowed with a tremendous amount of hydropower, Sweden will have to get more power from renewable sources and increase efficiency as the population grows and moves toward urban centers. In Europe, 80 percent of the population lives in cities and cities account for 50 percent of emissions. The new community, ideally, will become a blueprint for further urban development.

Some of the ideas build off of concepts from Hammarby Sjostad, a neighborhood built in the '90s as part of a foiled bid to land the 2004 Summer Olympics. It was the first mainstream community in the world planned around green ideas and concepts. Politicians and others were skeptical that it would achieve acceptance in the market, but soon after it was complete leaders from foreign governments began to request tours. Demand among consumers, particularly families, is fairly high for units in the area.

And, like South Korea did with broadband, Sweden hopes to use the experience in eco cities as a way to export intellectual know-how to the rest of the world, much in the same way the country exported telecommunications know-how in the '90s. It's not a bad choice. Eco ciites, arguably, are the largest market out there, encompassing everything from household designs to industrial equipment, commuter trains and transportation control centers. Both IBM and Cisco have relentelessly marketed themselves as partners for green cities.

Magnus Cullavik, a general manager at equipment giant ABB, noted that electric motors consume 45 percent of all electricity produced. “Between January 1 and the 16th of June, all power generated is dedicated to motors,” he said. In January, ABB completed its $3.1 billion purchase of Baldor Electric, which specializes in motors.

 Electrolux, Fortum and nearly all of the other large brands in electricity in the region are involved.

Smart grid showcases to date have had an uneven history. In Italy, an early and somewhat basic smart metering network saves Enel over 500 million euros a year. At the other end of the spectrum, Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity ballooned in cost and has drawn criticism from consumers and regulators.

The Stockholm Royal Seaport is arguably the most ambitious to date because it involves a retrofit of a community, not just the local grid. Some of the other highlights:

--A 1-kilovolt distribution system. Power will be delivered to homes in kilovolts. Ideally, the system will increase efficiency. Transformers at the home will step down the power to useable levels.

--Dynamic frequency adjustments. This is for the port. Some ships operate on 60 Hz and others on 50 Hz (the level varies based on their origin). The port electrical system will adjust to the ship.

--Flexible demand. This is Sweden’s take on demand response. Consumers will get signals a day ahead about pricing and potential carbon emissions for their upcoming energy use. They -- or a smart thermostat making adjustments on their behalf -- can then map their energy strategy for tomorrow accordingly.

The microgrid for the area will also include an ability for utilities to curtail power in peak power moments at participating offices and residences. Currently, Sweden doesn’t have residential demand response. (Peak power does not occur in summer, but rather is more likely in the afternoon on cold winter days.)

--A smart heat grid. A large portion of Stockholm gets its energy from a community heating system. At the seaport, the heat grid will be synchronized with the smart electricity grid for greater efficiency. Biofuel boilers with waste heat capture will also be installed.

--Lots of renewables. Thirty percent of the power will be produced locally, primarily by solar supplemented by storage.

--A smart garbage grid from Envac that vacuums away household waste. (More on this in a separate story.)

--A 530-unit apartment building on the site of the oil depot. At 170 meters high, it will become Stockholm’s tallest structure.

--A traffic hierarchy that will encourage biking and walking ahead of public transportation as well as electric cars.

Like a lot of smart grid projects, the technology slated to be used in these projects mostly already exists. A large part of the challenge will lay in integrating the elements as well as getting regulators and consumers to buy into concepts like dynamic pricing.

“The market component is one of the most innovative parts here,” said Tomas Wall, vice president of R&D at Fortum. “The electricity market was designed before the involvement of the consumer.”

The city owns the land -- the municipality actually owns 65 percent of its own real estate -- but will lease it to private developers. The development deals, though, all contain provisions that embody the goals of the project.

It won’t be cheap. The city will contribute $1 billion to cover the soil clean-up costs. Without that, the ultimate price for the apartments would be considerably higher. But the payoff for the city could be somewhat large.

Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? Like in Hammarby Sjostad, “We get a very nice neighborhood,” says Gustafsson.

Tags: abb, appliances, demand response, electrolux, energy efficiency, flexible response, fortum, green architecture, greenhouse gas emissions, passive house, passivhaus, smart grid, stockholm, sweden, urban renewal