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31 March 2021
By DEAN LAWSON
Exploratory plans are underway to assess the potential of Ararat becoming the benchmark for an Australian move into large-scale agricultural bioenergy production.
Clean-energy developer Pacific Heat and Power is working with Ararat Rural City Council on plans to build a bioenergy plant with an estimated cost of $200-million.
The plant would generate baseload power, renewable gas and biochar from cereal straw and other forms of regionally generated organic waste.
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If it comes to fruition, the project, based on similar concepts in use in Denmark, Spain, Chile and China, would be a first of its kind in Australia.
It would also likely have a dramatic socio-economic impact on communities across much of the Wimmera, Western District and Mallee. Ararat council chief executive Dr Tim Harrison said the project, which had evolved from discussions with Ararat district’s agricultural community during the past 12 months, remained ‘very much’ in infancy.
“It is really in a pre-feasibility stage and there would be a long way to go for it to become a reality. But it is very exciting,” he said.
“It’s about generating renewable energy and other value-added products and it fits perfectly with existing renewable-energy production such as wind and solar power, already in operation in the region.
“Environmental benefits of the project are significant in providing an alternative use of dealing with stubble and straw instead of paddock burning. It also establishes another value-adding element for farmers.”
Dr Harrison said one of the profound aspects of the project was the prospect of a ‘behind-the-meter’ opportunity, where electricity and heat generated on site could also be used to support adjoining industry.
“The plan would be to capitalise on the resource and develop an industrial park around the site,” he said.
“Being able to provide baseload power and renewable heat on site would represent a transformational opportunity for regional industry and the region as a whole.
“We’re not just talking about Ararat. Anywhere within a 100-kilometre radius would have an opportunity to benefit from this project.
“We’re talking supply chains, jobs and serious economic development.”
Pacific Heat and Power develops clean-energy assets based on a ‘Build. Own. Operate’ and ‘best-fit-for-project’ development basis. This means matching technical solutions and partners to a specific fuel and project context, rather than simply acting as an agent for any particular vendor or technology.
Managing director Dr Scott Grierson said a key aspect of the project becoming a reality was establishing the amount of cereal straw the company could access through contract arrangements.
“The Grampians gas project represents an exciting benchmark for the Australian bioenergy and agricultural sectors,” he said.
“But it requires active engagement with the local community in order to bring it to life.
“In truth, we’ve got a way to go. Before anything else, the most important task is to work towards settling on the aggregate cereal-straw volume that we think might be contractable and available – year-in, year-out – from local farms in the Ararat catchment.
“We can then at least settle on a proposed scale for the facility and commence with engineered designs and financial modelling in earnest – to begin to narrow our view on overall viability.”
Dr Grierson urged interested suppliers to lodge expressions of interest on website www.grampiansgas.com.au.
“We need to get the word out. I also urge potential suppliers to attend one of the upcoming community forums we’re planning to learn more, provide feedback and ask questions,” he said.
Dr Harrison said suppliers could provide expressions of interest until the end of April and meetings would follow to discuss and assess outcomes of the call and next steps forward.
“There will of course be wider stakeholder consultations with the community if things move to the next stage. But for now, we simply need to establish a picture of cereal-straw volumes with local farmers as a starting point,” he said.
The entire March 31, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
The entire March 31, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!