Eco-industrial parks

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Most municipalities would love to have a high-tech business park within their boundaries. The benefits of high-end, high-paying jobs is very appealing, great marketing for a town or city, and helpful to municipal coffers. However, everyone cannot have a 'Silicon Valley' per se. Yet, there are other, untapped alternatives, namely clean-tech and eco-industrial parks.

TORINO, ITALY

On a recent trade mission to Italy I had the pleasure of visiting the Science and Technology Park for the Environment in the City of Torino, Italy. The park, built on the site of a former steel mill, is 400,000 square metres in size and combines technological innovation and eco-efficiency.

The park is an architectural and landscape masterpiece that incorporates part of the structure from the former steel mill, green roofs, and sculptured solar panels. The waterway that runs through the park (that is used to produce hydro-electric power) further adds to the feeling of being in an oasis within the industrial city of almost one million people.

The founders of the park envisioned it to be a place where small and medium-sized companies could work on solutions and innovative technologies in the fields of energy and the environment. The park is divided into four main units: energy, green building, integrated environmental projects, and a nanotechnology lab.

The most interesting and fun aspect of the energy unit is the work on hydrogen-fueled scooters. The source of hydrogen is an anaerobic digestion pilot plant that utilizes biomass waste.

Within the green building unit, consultancy and design services are offered in the field of eco-compatible architecture. The unit itself is a showcase of eco-friendly building materials along with self-generating electrical use (solar and hydro).

When I was in the green building unit, I was impressed by the thought and effort put into making the workspace functional for human use, plus energy efficiency. The designers didn't sacrifice human function to achieve efficiency in heating or cooling. In fact, the opposite seemed to be the case: the conference hall had heating/ cool vents at each seat!

DUFFERIN COUNTY, ONTARIO

The County of Dufferin, about a one-hour drive northwest of Toronto, has its own ambitious plan for a Dufferin Eco-Energy Park (DEEP). The planned 200- acre location in the Township of East Luther Grand Valley is currently approved for a landfill site.

The DEEP will be more than a glorified dump. The vision is for the park to maximize the energy and re-use potential of incoming waste through composting, energy-from- waste thermal treatment, and anaerobic digestion. The park would also include an eco-energy development facility that would produce hydrogen fuel and green houses that could use the heat and CO2 from the thermal facility and agricultural uses. There is also consideration to include several wind turbines on the property.

The development of the park is beyond the navel-gazing stage. Proposals for the design-build of a 60,000 tonne per year composting facility are currently being evaluated. Also, an RFP was recently issued for a Design, Finance, Build, Own & Operate thermal treatment facility with a maximum capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year (10,000 tonnes guaranteed by the county).

Not everyone buys the county's vision. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) needs to approve the official plan of the Township East Luther Grand Valley -- the municipality within the county where the park will be located. MMAH staff is questioning the mixed use of lands for waste management along with agriculture and horticulture.

BOLD VISION

There may be funding for Canadian municipalities considering their own eco-industrial parks. Recently, the City of Regina received a $225,000 grant through the federal government's Green Municipal Fund. Part of the funding will pay for a planning study on eco-industrial networking opportunities for the city's Ross Industrial Park.

Ross Regina's Ross Industrial Park has more than 400 businesses ranging from large refineries to commercial operations and small distribution facilities. Through ecoindustrial networking, the city hopes to enhance the park's environmental, economic, and social sustainability.

This kind of 'industrial ecology' works best where symbiotic relationships exist between the various businesses. Ideally, one operation's waste materials (or waste energy) can be utilized by another business. A good example is a power plant or even a WTE facility that sells electricity and steam to its neighbors, or a manufacturer whose wood or plastic waste is recycled into the new products by another company.

Everyone should investigate these kinds of opportunities, especially as fossil fuel prices continue to climb.

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