In the process of trying to make crematoriums more eco-friendly, some communities in Sweden and Denmark have come up with a novel source of energy. Instead of letting all that excess heat go up the chimney, it’s piped into the local heating network.
“It’s the most sensible way to get rid of the excess heat,” said Ernst Jensen, an engineer with the Association of Danish Crematoriums, according to the Copenhagen Post. “That way the crematoriums can avoid having cooling towers, which are expensive, noisy and require a lot of energy.”
In Denmark, the Aalborg crematorium has been sending its extra heat to local energy companies since April, and six other communities will soon be doing the same. When a new crematorium in Zealand is completed, it will generate enough heat for a hundred homes for a year.
Crematorium temperatures can reach more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit before being cooled down to about 250 degrees. The cooling process requires great amounts of water that becomes heated, and this super-heated water is what gets sent into the heating distribution system.
The story is much the same in Halmsted, Sweden, where improvements to a local crematorium included a plan to use the extra heat in the facility first, and then sometime this year, begin piping the heat into the district heating system.
Officials in both countries point out that there is no difference in how bodies will be handled, and so there should be no ethical concerns.
“Of course, it’s possible that there will be some discussion about the ethics of this, but from our side, this is a purely environmental idea. There will be no difference in the ashes,” said Lennart Andersson, director of the cemetery in Halmsted.
And in Denmark, the question was put before the Ethics Council, which determined that using crematorium heat could not be considered the “indecent treatment of a human body.”