An eco-industrial park (EIP) is an industrial ecosystem in which a group of co-located firms are involved in collective resource optimization with each other and with the local community through physical exchanges of energy, water, materials, byproducts and services - referenced in the industrial ecology literature as "industrial symbiosis". EIPs, when compared with standard industrial resource sharing networks, prove to be of greater public advantage as they offer improved environmental and economic benefits, and higher operational efficiencies both upstream and downstream in their supply chain.
Although there have been many attempts to adapt EIP methodology to existing industrial sharing networks, most of them have failed for various factors: geographic restrictions by governmental organizations on use of technology, cost of technology, the inability of industries to effectively communicate their upstream and downstream resource usage, and to diminishing natural resources such as water, land and non-renewable energy (NRE) sources for energy production.
This paper presents a feasibility study conducted to evaluate the comparative environmental, economic, and geographic impacts arising from the use of renewable energy (RE) and NRE to power EIPs. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, which is used in a variety of sectors to evaluate the environmental merits and demerits of different kinds of products and processes, was employed for comparison between these two energy production methods based on factors such as greenhouse gas emission, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, human toxicity potential, fresh water usage and land usage. To complement the environmental LCA analysis, levelized cost of electricity was used to evaluate the economic impact. This model was analyzed for two different geographic locations; United States and Europe, for 12 different energy production technologies.
The outcome of this study points out the environmental, economic and geographic superiority of one energy source over the other, including the total carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, which can then be related to the total number of carbon credits that can be earned or used to mitigate the overall carbon emission and move closer towards a net zero carbon footprint goal thus making the EIPs truly sustainable.