Waste to Energy : Australia’s first biogas plant to commence operation

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In Nowra, the first large scale waste to energy biogas plant will start operating in the following twelve to fourteen months.

Conceived of as a joint venture between Innovating Energy, Botres Global and biogas tank manufacturer Schuhmann Tanks, the facility will convert cow manure and other forms of organic waste sourced from 19 neighbouring dairy farms into electricity. The processed energy would then be used to supply the participating farms, the remainder to be sold back to retail customers.

On July 27, Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor visited the site at Nowra, where he talked to several local dairy farmers.

He called the project both ‘exciting’ and ‘innovative’, relating how the program is set to be implemented across Australia and New Zealand as a means for finding alternative sources of electricity for farmers a long way from the grid.

The project is currently in its second stage of funding at $25 million, an investment that will see the establishment of twenty such waste to energy projects in the whole of Australia.

"This is technology - not taxes at work. It's practical projects that will bring down the cost of power and bring down emissions at the same time supporting great industries like the dairy industry here in Nowra," Taylor said.

The Nowra project will use all parts of dairy waste, which manufacturers generally find difficult to treat, thereby ensuring a true circular waste to energy cycle. Some green waste will be a part of the mix as well.

150,000 tonnes of farm manure and 30 tonnes of food waste will be converted into methane which will run in large generators, thereby producing electricity.

The use of manure will help address the challenges of manure storage whilst any leftover waste of the sort will be utilised on pastures as a nutrient rich organic fertiliser.

Beyond helping with manure management, the project also accommodates for the rising energy costs that dairy farms incur, for ex. the costs associated with keeping milk chilled at the required temperature prior to pick up by processors.

According to Innovating Energy Director Phil Horan, the food waste would be supplemented by organic material gleaned from the local area, including clubs, pubs and hospitals.

He stressed the inherently sustainable nature of the Nowra project.

"With the new requirements that will prohibit the use of food waste going to landfill this will be a very beneficial part of what we are doing here".

The Driven to Waste Report found that 1,2 billion tonnes of food are lost on farms, trumping the 931 million tonnes wasted in retail and consumption. In order to convey a mental picture of the state of affairs, the study released by WWF and UK retailer Tesco on July 21 compared the self-same figure to the weight of 10 million blue whales.