The Winter Olympics and Paralympics 2022 in Beijing, China are being called the first “green” Olympic Games, and the first games powered by renewable electricity. This isn’t a new idea. In 2012, the Sustainability Management System standard was created for future Olympic Games. The Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020 utilized innovative technology to reduce carbon emissions. Winter Olympics, however, require more energy to create and maintain the snow and ice required for competition.

To meet the energy requirements, China is showcasing the advancements they have made in renewable energy. They are using the Winter Olympics as a pilot project for a flexible, renewable energy grid that they plan to roll out nationwide to reach their goal of carbon neutrality by 2060.

The ski events of the Winter Olympics 2022 are being held in Zhangjiakou, China. The renewable energy produced in the city is enough to run the games and power the homes and businesses there. The innovation that is making this possible is a high voltage direct current transmission system (HVDC) instead of traditional alternating current. A major advantage of HVDC is the efficiency of power transmission over long distances. China accelerated the construction of the Zhangbei renewable energy flexible direct current grid instead of purchasing renewable power from elsewhere. The newly built infrastructure provides wind and solar power, with pumped hydro storage to regulate the output variations.

This is the first system of its kind and a leap for renewable energy delivery. According to China Daily, it will help save 49 million tons of coal and 12.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The wind and solar generated by Zhangjiakou is about 44 terawatt hours (TWh) per year. The city uses about 19 TWh, leaving the rest for distribution elsewhere. After the Olympics, the excess renewable energy will be channeled to Beijing, as well as the new city of Xiongan, currently being constructed near Beijing.

In addition to the renewable energy grid, Beijing is making full use of existing sports venues from the 2008 Olympics. Green retrofits bring them in line with the Sustainability Management System standards.

They are using carbon dioxide trans-critical direct refrigeration technology to produce ice. It is the cleanest and least energy-demanding refrigeration system currently available and can save 30% more energy than traditional approaches.

Transportation around and within the Olympic venues has also gone green. The fleets transporting athletes and coaches and the few spectators allowed are mostly hydrogen-fueled and electric vehicles. The infrastructure to charge and fuel these vehicles has been built, as well.

China is heavily reliant on coal for energy and has coal power plants in the area of the Olympic venues fully stocked and ready to take over if any glitches appear in the renewable energy grid. This problematic situation doesn’t detract from the research and development that has gone into the preparation for a greener, more sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games. The regions in China that are hosting the 2022 Games will benefit in the future from the implementation of renewable energy and the technology to support it.