Managing Director of Pacific Heat and Power, Dr Scott Grierson is visiting Ararat next week to talk to farmers about opportunities for agribusiness partnerships as part of the landmark Grampians Gas bioenergy project.
Renewable energy developer Pacific Heat and Power has joined with Council to develop the concept for a bioenergy plant that uses locally sourced straw and stubble to create energy.
The plant will transform farm waste into one or multiple renewables, with the potential to produce reliable base-load power, heat and renewable gas, as well as biochar.
“Pacific Heat and Power wants to hear from farmers about opportunities for partnerships that will determine local supply volumes and the scale of the plant,” said Ararat Rural City CEO, Dr Tim Harrison.
“The project has come about from discussions with local agribusinesses who have been calling out for governments to take a lead on ways to recover energy from farm waste.
“Rather than wait for governments to catch up on finding ways to address our economic and environmental challenges, we’ve reached out to industry for a solution.
“Initial modelling from Pacific Heat and Power has shown there is strong potential for the project to support jobs, both from the investment and operation of the plant, and via additional revenue for farmers.
“Due to the supply limitations of the energy grid, we have energy intensive industries that have to carefully consider expansion because they can’t secure a stable or cost-effective energy supply.
“What this project does is it turns a major impediment for industry into a competitive advantage.
“The straw fired power plant provides an opportunity to effectively secure energy and renewable gas for use by local industry, including potentially in a ‘behind-the-meter’ arrangement, reducing utility bills well below the market rate.”
Another co-product being considered is biochar, that will return nutrients and minerals to local soils to improve agricultural productivity while locking carbon away as a part of a circular economy strategy.
Dr Scott Grierson highlighted that while the project is an Australian first, the technology has been proven in other parts of the world as an effective way to recover energy from waste.
“The Grampians Gas project creates an opportunity to bring scalable cereal straw technology to Australia for the first time,” Managing Director of Pacific Heat and Power, Dr Scott Grierson said.
“This enables us to turn agricultural residues into energy and value-added products that will increase competition in the energy market, diversify farm incomes, and improve soil productivity while reducing carbon emissions.”
The forum will take place at Alexandra Oval Community Centre, 1 Waratah Avenue, Ararat on Tuesday 27 April from 11am-1:00pm. Farmers are encouraged to attend to hear more about how they can become involved in the project.
“As we traditionally like to do things in Ararat, the form will be light on presentations and heavy on discussion, Dr Harrison continued.
“By combining the expertise of our economic and energy partners, with the local knowledge of our farmers we’re taking a direct-action approach to solving a range of economic and environmental challenges.
“The response has been extremely strong, with over 58,000 tonnes of straw and stubble already committed via the expression of interest process from agribusinesses across western Victoria, including Ararat, Horsham and Nhill.
“This project strongly aligns with our partnership with Federation University to secure the Ararat Jobs and Technology Precinct, which will find new ways to attract investment and retain profits for farmers here.”