From brownfield to eco-park at ReVenture

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If all goes to plan, the city of Charlotte, NC will one day be home to an ambitious environmental initiative called ReVenture Park.

The project could also become a model for innovative redevelopment of industrial brownfields.

The ReVenture Park plan calls for a large renewable energy complex at a 700 acre site along the Catawba River.  Facilities for waste-to-energy, wastewater treatment, solar energy and R&D will rise from the ruins of an old textile dye factory – half a million square feet of industrial space.

The initiative will repurpose extensive infrastructure already in place, including railway tracks, multiple electricity substations and transmission lines, and a 360 million gallon containment pond. A portion of the ReVenture Park property is reserved for natural wildlife habitats.

ReVenture Park is an example of an eco-industrial park (EIP).  At most basic, an EIP involves an exchange between firms of their excess energy and materials. Waste from one firm becomes an input to another. Participants seek to improve their bottom line while lessening environmental impact.

The goal of the ReVenture initiative, like many EIP, is to spur economic growth in the region while improving the local environment. ReVenture hopes to attract numerous renewable energy and alternative fuel projects to the park.

The success of an EIP depends upon support from business, governments and the local community. ReVenture Park has garnered support from the local Chambers of Commerce and several conservation authorities.

The park’s official website claims that once fully developed, ReVenture Park will create at least 1,100 jobs and generate $900 million in new investment. More broadly, proponents see the park becoming the epicentre of a thriving renewable energy industry across the region.

A number of projects at the site have been planned or started.

  • A 4.5 megawatt waste-to-energy plant will produce heat, electricity and biofuel.
  • A public utility company is developing a wastewater treatment plant that can treat up to 12 million gallons of water per day.
  • A photovoltaic solar field will supply up to 4 megawatts of electricity.
  • Much of the existing industrial space will be used for green technology R&D and business incubation. The University of North Carolina will play a prominent role.
  • Through collaboration with various academic institutions and public schools, the park will feature a large K-20 learning centre. The centre will house learning laboratories and promote curricula around renewable energy.
  • A facility will convert fleets of vehicles to run on propane.
  • A project will pilot algae-to-fuel.

As well, ReVenture Park will build an eco-friendly community on an additional 600 acres of land surrounding the facility, featuring a combination of residential, retail, office and industrial space. The ultimate objective is to create a thriving community where residents consider environmental sustainability part of their lifestyle.