Industrial Symbiosis Experts Weigh in During CSI's First Whistle Stop Tour Event

Raymond, WA was the focus of CSI's First Whistle Stop Tour event, When More Industry is Also Pro-Environment: How Industrial Symbiosis Can Multiply Jobs and Environmental Benefits.

Raymond/South Bend is a resilient community that has been growing its adaptive muscles to pro-actively respond to economic disruption. In 2017 the Washington State legislature appropriated $1.5 million for the state’s Department of Natural Resources to help the Port of Willapa Harbor replace a shuttered sawmill with a new business venture that could grow back the good natural resource jobs that had been lost. The funding included $100,000 for CSI to help the community conceptualize an “Energy Innovation District” (EID) built around a new anchor business processing a sustainable forest resource.

The EID would harness the principles of industrial symbiosis to build shared infrastructure to harness waste heat, renewable resources, and organic materials to supply affordable and reliable inputs for a cluster of producer businesses generating value-add products, multiplying the economic and environmental benefits from the project.

To learn more about this project and how it's evolving, you can watch the video from CSI's recent Virtual Whistle Stop Tour Event or you can read the whole story here.

Our fantastic engaged audience asked many questions about industrial symbiosis during the event. Since we didn't have enough time to answer all of them during the live event, we figured we'd continue the conversation here:

From Peter Moulton: Q: Modern pellet mills can be designed to efficiently use nearly all excess heat on site while providing power to the local electrical grid. Distributed generation could be particularly valuable in rural areas concerned about their energy resiliency. Is electrical generation part of the pellet mill plan?

A:  For Raymond, our original thinking was to provide energy to the grid for base load, to help cope with increased use by marijuana growers. The widespread adoption of LED lights by that industry quickly helped reduce those new loads. Local power resiliency remains a concern. At the same time, we realized that once you have a pellet mill, you could have base load, peak load, or heat/steam—in a heat or steam district. Also, biochar. Now we know that this one new industry, a pellet mill, could be operated in such a way to benefit other local businesses. While Raymond gains one new business in the pellet mill, it also gains future flexibility.

- KATHLEEN SAYCE, Ecological Consultant and Botanist

A: Hi Peter. The future build-out for the Energy Innovation District includes heating/cooling energy, micro-grid electrical capability, and fiber for smart systems. We’re starting with thermal.  As you know, Peter, these complementary systems allow for blending of renewable and conventional sources of electrical and thermal energy.  If the pellet plant becomes more efficient by reusing thermal waste, it would be fantastic to bring in a fuel cell and run it using renewable hydrogen (once Grant PUD gets their pilot underway).  These systems could then provide renewable electricity and heating/cooling that could be used by existing and new tenants. - STEVE MODDEMEYER, Principal at CollinsWoerman

A: Without energy we could not process a thing so thus, we import hydro, LPG, CNG, gas, oil, etc.  We need to see these as energy bridges into the future in which other energies take hold in ways we can’t implement at the current level. Solid state thermocouples, battery storage, dispersed wind, solar, etc. all will play some part. - JIM SAYCE, Director at the Port of Willapa Harbor

From Troy Vassos: Q: Thank you Per.  I appreciate the morphing nature of your explanation.  However, for the whistle-stop example it appears that the concept is to develop new industries around the waste sawdust problem - essentially an eco-industrial park development concept in selecting or attracting the industries.  Or am I misunderstanding the proposal there?

A: Yes, this is close to a “greenfield” project, given that the anchor business (pellet mill) does not yet exist.  However, as Jim pointed out, they plan to use existing machinery for pellet production, so it’s not entirely new infrastructure.  Based on opportunities to capture waste energy and materials from that enterprise, new opportunities like mushroom and algae production, and area septage treatment emerged, which sets the Port up to attract new businesses that could fit into the larger symbiosis. - TED STURDEVANT, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure

A: Hi Troy: the waste sawdust is just one of the possible sources for the Energy Innovation District at the Port.  By looking at the broad range of inputs and byproducts from whatever business locates there, we will discover more opportunities beyond sawdust.  By co-locating users like algae or mushroom production, we end up creating full use of the “waste” thermal energy from the pellet mill, even though it is using existing equipment that may not be as efficient.  The diversity of uses and users, inputs and byproducts also make the area more resilient to changes beyond the port.  If for some reason sawdust is no longer available, then having a diverse user base allows for this timber town of Raymond to have a more resilient economy. - STEVE MODDEMEYER

From Jayson Antonoff: Q: Can you talk some more about the comparative viability of creating energy exchange streams vs. material streams?  Per noted that you may need more expertise when working with specific materials, but Steve's diagram for Raymond showed that even in a "small town" environment like that the emphasis appears to be on symbiotic repurposing of materials.

A: Best not to limit your thinking to energy OR materials, but to think about both in all locales. - KATHLEEN SAYCE

A: Hi Jayson. By looking at the inputs and