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Challenge / Goal

District cooling systems are very beneficial in areas with dense population and high cooling demand. Besides residential buildings, there are plenty of businesses and shopping centers that all need cooling.

In Tartu alone, Fortum has approximately 800 business customers and 75,000 residential customers in district heating who would have the opportunity to benefit from district cooling if a network is provided.


Currently, the heating system of the pilot area panel buildings is based on district heating networks with heat exchangers in boiler rooms. Hot water is produced locally with individual boilers that use electricity. The new district cooling system that will be installed in ca. 22 pilot buildings will use residual heat for producing water, which will be supplied through the existing district heating network. More specifically, this system will be based on a heat pump that, installed to return the flow of the district cooling system, will produce heat for the district heating system by using residual heat from cooling.

The district cooling system will use free solar energy from PV panels to cover a part of the cooling system’s energy demand. As such, the use of fossil electric energy for producing hot water with electric boilers will be replaced with residual heat and electricity produced by PV panels. The solution will meet consumer demands for thermal indoor comfort and domestic hot water while retaining high energy efficiency and share of renewable energy. Piloting this district cooling system will be accompanied by an in-depth monitoring application (see more under ICT solutions) based on smart meters that collect real-time data on energy consumption and thus demonstrate the effectiveness of the solution.

The construction works of Fortum Tartu’s district cooling plant and network were completed in May 2016. The first customer who joined the network was a shopping mall. The plant is located next to river Emajõgi, allowing to use river-cooled chillers that are a part of the high-performance production solution. Water from the river is used for free cooling from October to April. At the moment, Tartu’s district cooling network is 1.6 kilometers long. The district cooling project will decrease the need of electricity by 70% annually compared to local cooling solutions. The decrease in electricity use will benefit the environment by reducing CO2 emissions by 70%, i.e. 6,000 tons a year. The district cooling plan reduces the use of primary energy by more than three times.

Citizen participation

Informing the pilot area residents about the renovation activities and discussing any issues with them has been a crucial part of the planning and implementation process. For boosting participation and interest in the project, several measures have been taken into use, including regular information meetings, technical consultations and forum discussions



reuse waste heat from district cooling circuit for the district heating circuit

generate electricity from Solar PVs to power the Heat pump unit

supply cooling water to the neighborhood

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Time period

Planning time: 1 to 2 years

Implementation time: 6 months to 1 year

    Main benefits

  • Improving energy supply efficiency

  • Reducing use of fossils

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