Eco Innovator November 2011

Government Grants

Agricultural Waste to Energy

Colac in Victoria will host a new biogas plant that can convert organic waste from the dairy, meat and other agricultural industries to energy, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Victorian Government.

The Colac Power Company Pty Ltd is a joint venture between Camperdown Compost Company and Diamond Energy. The plant will employ up to six people, and provide a sustainable waste disposal option for south-west Victoria's agricultural industries.

Based on an input of 80 tonnes of liquefied waste per day, Colac Power Company will be able to produce about one megawatt of electrical power, enough energy to run 2,000 homes. The energy can be fed into the grid, or could also be channeled to some of Colac's dairy or meat processing plants.

Company director Tony Evans said the biogas plant could take all types of organic waste including grease trap waste, paunch material, dairy liquids and solids, and meat scraps – "basically anything organic".

"The ideal is for liquid waste with about 10 per cent solids, which is fed into big digester tanks where it is broken down over 30 days anaerobically," he said.

"The by-product of this process is methane, which we harvest off the top of the tanks, put through a cleaning process then burn through a gas-fired engine that runs a generator, which generates electricity."

Company director Nick Routson said the process produced heat as a by-product, which could be harnessed to produce hot water or steam. He said other by-products include liquids and solids, both of which are rich sources of phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen and other trace elements.

"Phosphorus and nitrogen are important and expensive fertilizers," said Mr Routson. "These elements leave the farm in the form of animals or animal products, and what isn't sold as meat or dairy can now be recycled, meaning we can help close the loop on these limited resources."

Mr Routson said "Camperdown Compost Company and Diamond Energy have two very different skill sets, and our partnership will ensure we have the expertise in both producing energy from organic waste, and taking it to market."

Mayor Lyn Russell said that government regulations for waste disposal are becoming more stringent and the cost of disposing of all types of waste is dramatically increasing.

"This project will provide security for our agricultural industries facing waste management issues, reduce pressure on landfill and produce a range of useful products from a waste stream that previously wasn't able to be re-used," she said.

Cr Russell said Colac Power Company owners, which comprise Mr Evans and Mr Routson, as well as Melbourne-based power company Diamond Energy, chose Colac because of its strong agricultural industries and central location proximate to Warrnambool, Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne.

Colac Power Company previously received a $50,000 grant from the EPA's Hazwaste program to conduct a feasibility study for the project, which involved extensive research into German biogas facilities.

Cr Russell thanked the Victorian Government's Regional Infrastructure Development Fund for providing essential support to help the biogas project happen.

The Camperdown Compost Company has been operating in the region since 2004. It works with local industry to develop biological farming products to increase efficiency of water usage and reduce reliance on fertilizer inputs. The company won the Powercor Regional Business of the Year Award in 2007 for demonstrating ongoing focus on commercial solutions and innovation.

Diamond Energy is a private company that has been operating since 2004 and has two renewable energy plants in northern Victoria. The electricity is sold through it's retail brand, Commercial Green. It is developing a range of wind, solar, wave, bio-energy and natural gas generation plants across Australia.






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