Boden Plug and Play is at the forefront of climate-smart conversion
When the Armed Forces regrouped, a need arose to create new conditions for jobs in Boden.
- Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we identified development areas, says Håkan Nordin at Boden Business Agency.
By this time, Boden had already begun investments in energy and the environment with the construction of heating and biogas plants. In addition, there was a lot of available electricity from hydropower in the nearby Lule River. In connection with this, Facebook also planned to establish itself in the region, so it was the beginning of the investment to attract electricity-intensive businesses to Boden.
- We looked at infrastructure and larger land areas. Even then, we had an ongoing project with Zeppelin-Caterpillar that was looking for a larger establishment in Boden. In connection with that, we looked at the Plug and Play area, a former military area. There we could see that there was an electricity supply and an infrastructure that meant that we could also quickly establish data centers, says Håkan Nordin.
Boden Business Agency is a municipal company whose most important task is to promote and develop Boden as a destination for electricity-intensive industries. The company works specifically to develop and package offers and support companies in all stages of the establishment process. The area had previously worked with biogas development for a number of years, now they also built a large switchyard to be able to take down the power on the ground and distribute it in the area.
- This led to us starting to attract customers to data centers, says Håkan Nordin, but now the interest has increased sharply from other types of green electricity-intensive customer segments, everything from battery storage to the changes that are about to take place in the mining and steel industry.
Within the municipality, there are close collaborations with both national and international players in system solutions, electricity suppliers and the ventilation side, but also with Luleå University, RISE and the Swedish Energy Agency.
- Among the ongoing projects is one where a number of both Swedish and foreign companies together with Luleå University and RISE will show how to use the heat that comes from data centers for cultivation all year round in a greenhouse, says Håkan Nordin.
The intention is to take advantage of the energy that is available, partly by using the green energy from the river, partly by reusing energy such as heat in, for example, greenhouses. But they also work with models for how to cool down data center hot servers in the most efficient way.
- It is a central part, to not only blow out the energy but really think one step further, says Håkan Nordin.
- There are many parallel projects in progress and the idea is to show that this works on a commercial scale. In this way, it can be said that Plug and Play is an area prepared to be able to quickly demonstrate that a project works in reality. The next step is to create larger, large-scale symbiosis projects between electricity-intensive players and, for example, the food industry. Up here in the north, for example, we import about 95 percent of our vegetables. Through the reuse of green energy, we can create completely new forms of vegetable cultivation and promote locally produced all year round. There is a huge potential in this.
Of course, the investment also applies to logistics.
- If we are to produce a lot of vegetables, we must also get these on the market. Now we are creating a local food cluster in Boden with everything from hobby growers to wholesalers to be able to invest on a large scale. We are also investing in aquaponi projects with fish farming, insect farming and greenhouses in symbiosis, says Håkan Nordin.
He explains that the projects that are underway in Plug and Play are also connected to other investments, not least in biogas. Old technology is simply built together with new and creates a greater symbiosis.
In the spring of 2020, the Swedish Energy Agency named the area a strategy node for a flexible and robust energy system and world-class production.
- We are also looking at developing the electricity system in general through a flexible electricity use at data centers and adding battery storage to make the electricity system even stronger. We are also creating a digital platform for energy flows and material flows that is the basis for future business models, concludes Håkan Nordin.