Sunshine Coast waste powers 1200 homes

Sunshine Coast Council

On the back of becoming Australia’s first council to offset 100% of its electricity consumption through its own solar farm, Sunshine Coast Council is now converting waste to electricity at its Caloundra Renewable Energy Facility.

In a first for the region, the facility at 99 Pierce Ave, Bells Creek creates enough energy to power 1200 homes 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

The facility, which was officially opened today (24 November 2020), is linked to the power grid, and generates 7000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity per annum, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 41,000 tonnes each year, which is the equivalent to removing approximately 9000 cars from the road.

Service Excellence Portfolio Councillor Christian Dickson said the facility’s opening was another step towards council’s goal to transition to a circular economy for waste.

“Our general rubbish disposed of at the landfill releases biogas as it decomposes, which is made up of 50 per cent methane – a potent greenhouse gas 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide,” Cr Dickson said.

“We all need to transition to cost effective, renewable resources and low carbon energy and it’s great to see this waste become a resource.

“To support a thriving community now and into the future it is critical that we manage our energy, waste and natural resources efficiently and sustainably, which is why council is working through actions from our Sunshine Coast Waste Strategy 2015 – 2025.

“We are currently reviewing expressions of interest submitted by industry for Alternative Waste Treatment options, to harness the potential value of resources which have traditionally been discarded into landfill.

“We partner with our community to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill through projects like ASPIRE market place, Living Smart, and ongoing recycling education.

“Sunshine Coast Council was the first local government in Australia to offset 100 per cent of its electricity consumption with renewable energy through the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm.

“This is another project which ensures the Sunshine Coast contributes to achieving international, national and state greenhouse gas reduction targets, another step towards becoming Australia’s most sustainable region, healthy, smart, creative.”

Service Excellence Portfolio Councillor Winston Johnston said the new energy facility contributed to reducing the impact of waste on our environment.

“Previously, the landfill biogas was combusted via a biogas flare and released into the atmosphere – flaring of the biogas destroys the most harmful emissions,” Cr Johnston said.

“Now it’s converted to electricity at the new landfill-biogas-to-energy facility and fed directly into the power grid, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the landfill by approximately 41,000 tonnes each year, which includes both landfill emissions as well as off-setting grid emissions from fossil fuel electricity generators.

“When compared to a traditional coal-fired power station generating the same amount of electricity, the Caloundra Renewable Energy Facility will also save more than 15 million litres of water per annum.”

Division 1 Councillor Rick Baberowski said plans were in place to expand the energy plants into other council facilities.

“In the next five to 10 years, more power generation plants will be installed at Caloundra landfill as the gas collection system is progressively expanded into new landfill cells that hold the waste,” Cr Baberowkski said.

“Energy plants are also planned for the Nambour Landfill at Bli Bli in the next two years, feeding more renewable energy into the grid and further reducing the Sunshine Coast’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

The energy facility was designed and built by LMS Energy (LMS) at no cost to council.

LMS is a leading renewable energy and emissions reduction company, which will continue to operate and maintain the facility.

Chief Commercial Officer at LMS James McLeay explains how the facility works.

“The biogas is extracted from the landfill via a series of wells and network of pipes which connect to an 850KW Jenbacher engine, which generates approximately 7000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity each year – enough power to charge 40,000 electric vehicles,” he said.

“Capturing the biogas generated at the landfill and using it to generate renewable energy, reduces the environmental impact of the landfill significantly – in fact, due to the high biogas capture rates at the site, for every tonne of waste deposited at the Caloundra landfill, there are no net greenhouse gas emissions.

“Landfill biogas-to-energy facilities are key pieces of infrastructure for modern, best practice landfills around Australia. The opening of this facility sees the Sunshine Coast Council further enhance its position as a leading sustainable council, helping power the circular economy from waste.

“LMS is very proud to have a strong relationship with Sunshine Coast Council. Over the years, council has demonstrated an ongoing commitment towards best practice waste management, and identified emissions reductions, renewable energy and the circular economy as a priority for both current and future generations.”

This project is registered under the Emission Reduction Fund (ERF), and to date has been issued with 76,302 Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) which are sold via the Clean Energy Regulator.

Council receives a royalty payment based on a percentage of revenue from the sale of carbon credits, renewable energy certificates and electricity pumped into the grid, of which the future value may vary due to market fluctuations.

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