Local leaders are drawing inspiration from across the Atlantic to find a future use for Longview’s old aluminum plant.
The goal is to build a business park along the Columbia River where each industry uses the other’s waste or byproducts to reduce waste and save money.
The design was first conceptualized in Denmark, where local leaders recently visited to see the sustainable model in person and visualize how the green plan could be used at home.
“If you can sell sludge to someone who can turn it into biofuel, that’s a win for the company that needs to get rid of the sludge and for the company that needs it for their projects,” said Ted Sprague, president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council.
The economic development board is asking the state Legislature for $2.5 million to take the first design steps to create what they call an “industrial symbiosis park.” The money will be split between the council and the Port of Pasco, which plans to build a similar park about 230 miles upriver from Columbia.
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The model can be used to renovate an existing industrial site, but Longview’s advantages are locating new industries in a new business park. Therefore, the former Reynolds Metals site has been identified as a potential location.
Representatives from GreenLab, the Danish company that created the model, spoke with local businesses about the design of the new Longview park at a workshop held in December at the offices of Northwest Alloys, a former aluminum plant at 4029 Industrial Way.
The land is in the midst of a $28 million cleanup of contaminated land by the Department of Ecology and current owner Alcoa, the parent company of Northwest Alloys. A spokesperson for Alcoa told The Daily News that the mitigation is about half complete and they hope to clean up the site by January 2025.
Sprague said the location will work for the scale and power needs of the green industrial park. The Columbia River could be used for hydropower, and the land had previously been developed for large-scale electricity use. Nearby lumber and paper mills could feed their wood byproducts to a company in the new park. Plus, an environmental covenant placed on the land by the Washington Department of Ecology means the site remains zoned for industrial uses.
How does it work in Denmark?
In September, Sprague and Longview Community Development Director Ann Rivers joined a group visiting GreenLab in Denmark.
GreenLab says their model makes it cheaper for businesses to get rid of their waste or buy materials, and creates a sustainable process by reducing the overall amount of waste.
Head of business development Jacob Morgensen said GreenLab helped to understand which companies could complement each other in the Danish area and how to design the park for different purposes.
“It’s a puzzle,” he said. “You’ve got some pieces already laid out and you’ve got a blank canvas and you’re trying to figure out what’s a good company that fits the profile you have right now.”
The Danish business park has seven companies spread over an area of about 30 acres. Current customers include cattle and pig farms that provide manure for a biogas production company. Wind turbines on the site power a facility that breeds and cultivates invasive starfish species, some of which are used by a third company to create pet food.
Sprague said he’s not used to dealing with selecting companies to fit into local business parks, but he expects that to change.
“It’s not something we’ve focused on in the past and we’ll do more of it in the future. Based on the meetings (in December), I see that it is getting stronger.”
A funding request to the Legislature said the money would cover a business park site map, a project feasibility study and a preliminary master plan. The Longview park will be inspired by GreenLab, and the Danish company is listed as a sponsor in the funding request.
However, Morgensen said the company is not in a position to play an active development role in any Washington projects.
“What we know from experience is that it’s pretty easy to get to that stage and say, ‘yes, we want to do this,'” he said. “Now comes the hard part of maintaining that level of engagement and having that persistence.”
Since joining Longview in 2021, Rivers said the development focus has been on green energy projects because of support at the state level.
One of the first projects he worked on after joining the city of Longview was the Divert biogas plant, currently under construction across from the old Reynolds site in the Mint Farm Industrial Park, which aims to turn food waste into renewable energy.
Before the project finally landed in Lewis County, Rivers was in discussions with Fortescue about a potential hydrogen power center in Longview.
While any work at the business park is still several years away, Rivers said local leaders are thinking about tomorrow now.
“Cities have a reputation for delaying and stalling things, and that’s not the role we’re playing here,” Rivers said. “It is better to have a plan before you have a need and to know the needs before the needs arise.”