Biomass projects in the Ballarat region could be more cost effective than wind and solar power says a bioenergy expert.
The Bioenergy Forum 2010 in Ballarat brought together experts, representatives from State Government, Local Government, big business and the community to discuss potential biomass projects for the region.
World Bioenergy Association board member Andrew Lang says in parts of Europe biomass is generating more energy than wind and is the main renewable energy sector in the EU.
“It’s the reason why say in Sweden, 31 per cent of their total energy is coming from biomass and only about one per cent of their energy is coming from wind, even though it’s a country that’s no more or less windy than here,” he says.
“It really comes down to the cost effectiveness of the different options and bioenergy is potentially a very cost effective option.”
He says local waste has the potential to power more than 50 per cent of Ballarat’s energy needs.
“It would involve utilising the wastes, the residues that currently either goes into landfill or gets burned or is just allowed to lie in the plantation or the farm to rot.”
Converting the waste into energy would involve investing in a new power plant, however he says there are possibilities for smaller projects which are less costly.
“There is a lot of low hanging fruit to be picked that doesn’t require great risk and doesn’t require great investment.
“We’ll be basically recommending that … there be some greater development of the potential for say local wood-chipping and palleting enterprises to start being the supplier of this sort of product,” Mr Lang says.
He believes bioenergy needs to be brought back into the light and government needs to invest more time and money into developing biomass projects.
“State Government and Federal Government are, I suppose I’d have to say, retarding the process by not being as informed as they should be.
“They’re being led a little by some of the proponents of some of these other more sexy sounding technologies.”
Windermere pig farmer Jock Charles has a power station on his property and has been converting pig effluent to energy and fertiliser for years.
He says the 20,000 pigs on his property produce the same amount of waste as 80,000 humans.
“We’ve been up and running now for 21 years with the plant.
“So it uses anaerobic digestion to convert the pig manure into basically, methane gas and then we use the methane gas to drive generators.”
The plant cost $1.8million in 1989, but Jock believes Ballarat business could expect to see the return in five years.
“Obviously there’s a benefit in electrical production, in the order of about $150,000 of electricity a year.”
But cost and environmental benefits aren’t the only advantages.
“We also have a substantial reduction in odour around the piggery,” Jock says.
City of Ballarat mayor Judy Verlin says Ballarat has the potential to be the renewable energy capital and council will be taking away a report of the forum’s outcomes about possible biomass projects.
“We know we’re going to have increasing pressures put on us as we have to reduce the amount of landfill.
“So looking at creative ways of being able to do that, then tap into State Government support and funding schemes, I think it provides a great opportunity for a couple of wins; a win in the fact that we’re doing something good for the environment… but also the other thing is to actually reduce our costs overall as a Local Government area.”
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