A circular economy is one in which most, if not all, components are recycled and reused. Its goals include reducing mining and preventing precious resources from being discarded in landfills — places that in the old days people called dumps. Northvolt is building a new battery manufacturing facility adjacent to the Volvo factory in Torsland, an industrial city west of Gothenburg, that will have a unique feature.
A battery factory requires a large amount of water for cooling. Using potable water is not the best solution, particularly as clean drinking water becomes more scarce. At present, the local sewage plant treats the effluent it receives and discharges it into the ocean. But when the battery factory is completed, it will take that water — politely known as “technical water” — and use it to cool the factory.
That’s not the end of the story, though. While cooling the manufacturing process, that water will get hotter. The warm water will then be returned to the treatment facility, where it will be used to heat the water used for district heating in the local community. [District heating is relatively unknown in the US, but it is a technique that has been used by by many European countries for a century or more.]
Henrik Einarsson, operations manager for Business Region Gothenburg, tells Newsbeezer, “What we have done is that we have found a solution that allows us to use the waste water. Then we use the heat in the heated water before releasing it like today. It is fully circular and you do not have to intervene in environmental and water issues. We can also save energy and it is circular thinking.”
The competition to attract the Northvolt factory was intense, with many Swedish cities vying to be chosen. The wastewater recycling plan was a key consideration in the final decision. The factory is expected to directly add 3,000 jobs to the local economy while creating thousands more in support and ancillary sectors. “There will also be large spillover effects. It can create twice as many jobs in the long term. We can assume that by 2025 maybe 5-6,000 Gothenburgers will have a job,” says Einarsson. Northvolt and Volvo will also jointly construct an R&D center nearby.
“This is a completely unique opportunity to place a large industrial plant in the middle of an existing metropolitan area. You have access to manpower, engineers and everything the big city has to offer. It’s very rare that you have this kind of opportunity,” he adds. “It’s like winning Olympic gold before the Olympics have even started.”
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