An industrial park in Skive is trying to solve two of Western societies’ most urgent problems: climate change and the effect of urbanization on rural areas. A pilot project is showing circular economy at its best.
On the outskirts of Skive — a small Danish town of 20,000 inhabitants — the GreenLab industrial park is trying to validate energy systems based on the concept of circular economy. Inaugurated two years ago, the site wants to create a symbiosis between companies, allowing them to share their excess resources and eventually use the others’ waste as feedstock.
The industrial processes at GreenLab are powered by renewable energies, including wind turbines with a total capacity of 56 megawatts (MW) and solar-energy installations of 24 MW.
“The main purpose is to attract new investors to the area. One of our purposes is also to show the world the benefits of our approach to a circular economy. We do not only look at theoretical systems, but we also implement them,” Skive’s mayor, Peder Christian Kirkegaard, told DW.
The mayor said GreenLab got the timing right, as the current focus on climate change, and the ongoing energy crisis, helped the Skive project make it into the headlines. Even former US President Barack Obama recently came to the town to speak about the green transition.
Speaking to DW in the mayor’s office that overlooks the Skive Fjord on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, Birgitte Bahat, head of communications of the municipality, noted proudly: “Skive is already on the map.”
Green rural transition
Skive is a cozy place with a long fishing and agriculture tradition. But a huge budget problem in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis resulted in a social crisis that made Skive struggle for its reputation. Many young people have migrated since, leaving behind an aging population.
In the streets of Skive, bicycles are less common than in other Danish towns. Some teenagers working in the local cafes said they prefer Copenhagen and Aarhus — the two biggest cities in the Jutland peninsula — because of their “diversity.”
Asked about Skive’s green transition and regional growth, they are not wholly aware of the developments at GreenLab some 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) away. “It sounds cool, but it is very complex,” said one young woman working in a coffee shop.
The industrial park was co-funded by the local municipality, in hopes that GreenLab might contribute to solving Skive’s demographic and social problems. The project has already created about 100 jobs, said Mayor Kirkegaard, who seems convinced the green transition will attract even more young professionals.
“Much of the green transition will take place outside the big cities because we have the space.”
The municipality has already bought 55 hectares (136 acres) of land and invested a total of 80 million Danish kroner (€ 10.8 million/$10.74 million) in the industrial park. Revenues it receives annually from rent payments from companies are in the region of 3 million kroner. Under expansion plans, Skive is considering buying an additional 70 hectares.
According to Kirkegaard, the private-public partnership is creating benefits that would otherwise be impossible. “When you start a project like this, you will find a lot of barriers. The public sector can help solve the problem before it even becomes a problem. For example, working with related laws.”