"Transforming waste into a cleaner Cowra." Renewable Roadshow Guardian Australia

This response provides answers and information pertaining to some of the questions raised in the Guardian Australia article Renewable roadshow, "Transforming waste into a cleaner Cowra." It should be noted this is not a comprehensive response. Should parties wish to follow up further, please contact CLEAN through our email. Note that we are a volunteer community organisation and will endeavour to respond accordingly.

As previously indicated, the reports produced as part of the Cowra Biomass Project Development are not readily accessible on the website. These reports have however been provided to our partners and key stakeholders. CLEAN and its partners also acknowledge that significant investment, philanthropic, pro- bono and in kind contributions have been invested into the project development over the past three to fours years, with only a portion of these from public funds allocated to support specific project outcomes or deliverables.

The focus of the project has been to achieve an community renewable energy (CORE) outcome at scale and so has looked towards Council, agriculture and industry. As a small regional town, this makes up a considerable number of members and contributors to community.

The model being developed provides significant direct benefits to community through re-investment of profit for community outcomes, off set by decentralised energy generation, particularly on Council infrastructure. It also looks to capture the significant emissions abatement values within a community enterprise, with this currently being established as a perpetual fund and will have the capacity for localised investment in the infrastructure development. This model has the potential to be replicable and scalable.

In terms of the "cake" produced from process, this is not dissimilar to a high grade pasteurised compost, owing to the temperature of the anaerobic digestion  This will require processing to produce bio-based fertilisers with detailed analysis undertaken to ensure if it will be suitable for application to food based crops. In terms of the price point of this conversion, this is being established as part of the project development.

The total Carbon costs of the project of a biomass project are significant and complex. These include but not limited to, the aggregation of feedstocks, to the energy conversion and generation , to the emissions abatement from methane capture and potential use of CO2 for local applications. The project has identified localised nodes of biomass resources in order to limit the requirement for transportation. The transportation of biomass to a localised plant could offset the energy intensive requirement to manage crop "trash" post harvest.  (ARENA , the national renewable agency is developing a Life Cycle Analysis matrix which will be a requirement for all bioenergy project applying for federal funding.)

In terms of Municipal green waste streams, due to a current EPA moratorium around biosecurity, regional councils are required to certify compost if they are to sell it back to community. Most small regional centres don't create the volume or budget to process this waste and in some instances have sort to charge for processing.

CLEAN recognises AD is proven technology. However this is a novel approach to investigate and demonstrate the benefits of aggregation of biomass through co-digestion. Research suggests that there is an increase in the "gas-make" by combining two or more feedstocks in varying ratios in the AD process. Further more, on-site monitoring from recently conducted "ABC" trial in Cowra indicate as much.

(Sydney Water has been testing this for a number of years, transporting organic food waste to their AD facilities.)

As part of a CENTROC ( regional organisation of councils ) initiative, Cowra Council participated in a high level analysis for a Distributed Energy Plan conducted by ARUP in 2011- 12. This explored a number of options specifically for council's infrastructure, many of which have undergone further analysis and subsequently implemented upgrades.

This report explored the utilisation of renewable energy alternatives. Due to Cowra's location in the Lachlan valley, the report indicated that unfortunately due to being in a wind shadow, such technology was not viable for implementation. A number of Wind farms are located within a 75 km radius to the west and southwest of Cowra.

In terms of hydroelectric technology, a small turbine (18 + 4 mW) is installed at Wyangala Dam , 30 kms SW of Cowra.

In terms of Solar PV, the indication is that currently 10- 12 % of Cowra' energy demand is produced locally. In 2007 CLEAN initiated a community solar program that saw the implementation of over 100 systems as part of that program, which has seen a subsequent increased uptake of solar PV in the region.

It should be noted that bioenergy (biogas) has capacity for baseload energy generation and any current and future cost benefit analysis should take this into consideration. There is also the consideration of the other high valued bio-products made as part of the energy generation process. These may include substrates for bio- based fertilisers and phenol resins used in a variety of applications such as the pharmaceutical industry. CLEAN sees the Cowra Biomass project output as a potential balance to the energy mix.

In terms of establishing the benefits of the project development from a social perspective, research papers available through Bioenergy Australia indicate the potential for 1 new full time job per 1 GWhr/ annum of bioenergy generation. At full capacity the project proposes to produce 38 GWhr / annum, employing a diverse range of labour and skilled personal, from biomass handling and processing, through energy generation and conversion.

The PFS (pre-feasibility study), a high level analysis of the 12 mW project concept completed last year, utilised a decision matrix tool that assessed the impacts and benefits from an environmental, socio, political, economic and financial perspective. It also reviewed the technology appropriateness, risk assessment and management as well as an indicative assessment of the potential emission abatement as part of the energy generation component. 

( As indicated previously a more detailed analysis will be undertaken at each stage of the project development.) 

The findings of the PFS indicated that in order to proceed with the project development, CLEAN would need explore the following aspects further. 

1. The energy content of the available feedstocks.

2. The potential for selling generated electrical and thermal energy at a premium over the wholesale price

3. The Nutrient and soil amelioration value of the digestate.

This investigation has commenced with the recently conducted "ABC" trial.

 

Completion of CLEAN "ABC" trial

During the middle of last week, CLEAN Cowra Inc and Cowra Council successfully hosted a launch for the Aggregated Biomass Co-digestion trial.

The launch of the "ABC" trial had a good turnout with a diverse representation from industry and the community.  Those in attendance provided probing questions which was a good indicator of the level of engagement.

As the presentation indicated, you need to "learn your ABC" of the make-up of the biomass resource before further developing a project, and the purpose of this trial was to demonstrate exactly that. Also the significant opportunity arising around collaboration, in order to achieve a project outcome at scale.

The demonstration also provided a platform for Council engagement about the opportunities for council infrastructure and CLEAN Cowra will continue the discussion with Mayor Bill West and Council's management on how this could be achieved.

CLEAN Cowra would like to thank David Halliday of Active Research for his expertise and input during the week. Also Nick Bainton who supported CLEAN Cowra and contributed to developing the "recipe" for the co-digested feedstocks, as well as the huge task of preparing and drying the samples to be sent off to three different locations for analysis. 

Both were also guest speakers at "Science in the Pub" which was a great opportunity to learn more about Biomass as a resource and the benefits to industry and agriculture.

We anticipate the results from the different forms of analysis will be completed within an fortnight and a report describing the outcomes will be presented in April shortly after the analysis has been compiled.

Development Application for the Aggregated Biomass Co-digestion trial Approved

Yesterday at an extraordinary meeting, Cowra Council approved the Development Application for the Aggregated Biomass Co-digestion trial at the Cowra Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Convened by CLEAN Cowra Inc in conjunction with council’s Infrastructure department, the intension of the ABC trial is to focus on Anaerobic Digestion as the the conversion technology, as the feedstocks will be primarily "wet and semi- dry” (green trash and Municipal Green Waste). Whilst “dry" waste is readily available,  it is not suited to this technology process. CLEAN Cowra will continue discussion with a consultant around their research into the pre- treatment of ligneouscellulosic biomass in making it suitable for AD processes.

Due to the small volumes required for this trial, these will be transported to the trial site. Most are within a six kilometer radius, some literally across the fence and delivery will be by a licensed trade waste collector.  As the trial explores at the potential benefits of co-digestion, about 6- 7 feedstocks will be utilised in the trial.  Members of the Industry Reference Panel established by CLEAN Cowra  are investigating the interrelationship of the feedstocks and how they are combined through the AD process.

Whilst this explores a solution for the municipal and other waste components at the WWTP implemented by the possible use of a Covered Anaerobic Lagoon, future expansions using additional feedstocks may be suited to different AD technology. The results of this trial will provide essential data in relation to the appropriate solutions.

As part of the broader project development CLEAN Cowra has completed a pre-feasibility study which provides an overview of the scope, benefits and model for implementation.  Ongoing investigations will look to the location of plants at the source of significant biomass, minimising the requirement for transportation. On- farm biomass would have to be transported to centralised nodes and necessitates the use of backloads as a system of potential delivery. 

A future exploration will look at the potential to utilise a branch arm of rail network that is currently out of operation, to transport biomass to a node potentially located near the WWTP.

The outcome of the ABC trial will form the basis of a briefing document/ scope for a Request for Quotation, as a selected tender for the implementation of a larger scale demonstration plant. 

CLEAN Cowra are in the process of establishing a document to raise the capital for this component.

NSW Government's Renewable Energy Action Plan- 2016 Report

As part of the NSW Government's Renewable Energy Action Plan, the 2016 Annual report has been released:

NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin said 17 of the recommended 24 actions are now complete, five more than last year.

“We’re making great progress on the Renewable Energy Action Plan, which positions NSW to increase energy from renewables at the least cost to customers while also helping to boost our energy security,” Mr Harwin said.

CLEAN Cowra Inc is identified as one of two case studies of Community renewable energy projects, that facilitate and build support for local ownership.

CLEAN at Community Energy Congress

CLEAN Cowra Inc. has been invited to present at the upcoming C4CE congress in Melbourne, on the 27th and 28th February where approximately 500 national and international delegates are due to attend.

As the national community renewable energy conference, this will be an significant opportunity to present the Cowra Biomass to Energy Project, with many government department and agencies, financial and industry agencies such as CEFC and ARENA represented.

Being one of handful of community projects with a focus on biomass, we have been asked to present in a session titled, Back to the Future- on how innovative technology and business models can be used to develop community renewable projects and move towards delivery of "net zero energy" .

http://c4ce.net.au/congress/program2017/presenters/

AD Trial

CLEAN Cowra is planning a trial in mid-March to demonstrate the practical efficacy of the Cowra biomass project. Information from this trial will inform how we set up a later event – a full scale implementation of the Anaerobic Digester (AD) plant. 

First step will be a temporary onsite laboratory test to establish data and ascertain the true value of the codigestion process from local feed stocks.

That initial trial will utilise a mobile laboratory-scale anaerobic digester deployed on the back of a semi-trailer. With this we will process feedstock from our various local biomass suppliers with a view to establishing the quality of the gas produced. The raw data will indicate the energy values generated by each type of biomass.

We’re calling it the ABC trial (aggregated biomass co-digestion), emphasising it’s a collected stream of biomass, co-digestion meaning that we use the interaction of the different biomass to get the different gestate. Considering we anticipate that a fully operational plant would produce up to 60% of Cowra’s energy needs, this will be an excellent reference for which local waste streams we should be sourcing.

The results of the event, run over 10 days, will give us good raw data, as opposed to the desktop analysis we used in the PFS. They’ll assess the gas production for heat, and potential of the process for creating commercial quantities of agricultural fertiliser, converting local resources to establish outputs of much increased value.

The trials will cost around $25,000.

 

The ABC trial will inform a later demonstration of the AD plant, to be developed in consultation with Cowra Council. It will utilise a more complex, permanent infrastructure installed in a covered lagoon at the Cowra Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP). It’s a larger scale implementation of the initial trial, converting waste streams in the pond into anaerobic digestion. It will also provide a proof of concept insofar as the values of electricity generation, in addition to the values provided by the initial trial.

All the studies that we’ve done, as well as the indications of the Industry Reference Panel, Sydney Water and Melbourne Water is that codigestion has a great value in terms of waste water processing. Indeed it is a mainstream industry in Europe, with 6,000 AD plants in Germany alone and the European Biogas Association citing massive growth in certain countries such as the UK, where the number of biogas plants has doubled in the year up to September 2016. 

There are direct benefits to local industry, agriculture and local government in utilising the energy extracted from this process.

These include reductions in environmental impacts for the infrastructure and materials we will be using. Currently our waste water treatment plant produces a certain amount of unpleasant odour. The anaerobic process will considerably reduce the odour component and reduce the impacts from their current disposal. It will also reduce methane emissions by burning it to produce electricity.

As the European experience has shown, utilising biomass as an energy source creates an industry around that process, so the resource recovery to energy conversion and the creation of fertiliser from by products are industries in themselves – creating social benefits and localised employment for small communities such as Cowra. 

CLEAN Update November

In the light of an unsuccessful bid for funding to advance the Cowra Biomass Project, CLEAN is investigating other promising investor opportunities. The detailed work that went into tightening our submission to ARENA has served to improve and refresh our collated data and information material. We also have an abridged version of the PFS as an extended summary for this purpose.

As CLEAN Cowra looks for other potential avenues of support, we have been developing a series of communication documents for the respective sectors. 

Two particular areas are multiple -departmental support from the NSW government and the Environmental philanthropic sector which has express interest in the broader project development. A single document, describing the project and its potential, is being reviewed and structured towards those specific sectors with the intension of garnering their support early in the new year.

A recent presentation to representatives from the environmental philanthropic sector provided positive feedback and the promise of further such pitches to a larger cohort in that space. We are optimistic about the potential funding that may develop from these contacts.

 

In that regard, mid November was part of a busy few days in which Dylan Gower presented at the national Bioenergy Australia annual conference in Brisbane, which had over 50 international delegates.  This is an important forum for key stakeholders in the bioenergy and sustainable development field and as such could also yield potential opportunities.

The conference proved very beneficial in catching up with a number of people who are familiar with the project. It was an excellent opportunity to present data and material and what we’ve achieved over the past year, particularly in relation to the PFS and the output of the website itself.  

The presentation took people through the methodology and approach we’ve taken, identifying whether they are appropriate to the Australian context and also to the type of technology proposed. That was very well received, with good feedback coming from the Queensland State development agency (Department of State Development) and Queensland Utilities (Urban Utilities). We also had favourable commentary from the Netherlands Energy Agency and other overseas groups.

We spoke to a number of potential vendors about the project, in particular for the pilot development path and are now in dialogue with them. Unfortunately we couldn’t attend the site visits, which would have given good insights into the preparation of our pilot demonstration. While in Brisbane, Dylan also caught up with Gerald Arends from Pegasus Legal, who has been helping develop aspects of the project including Memorandums of Understanding and the enterprise structure.

 

Travelling back through Sydney, Dylan used the opportunity to meet with members of the Australian Environmental Grant-makers Network (AEGN), as to how the sector may potentially contribute and how we could structure our presentation.  We hope to respond to them shortly with a view to presenting where we are up to. 

Also met with a legal contact in the resource and energy space who offered some advice in regard to project development. 

Consolidating and advancing the Cowra Biomass Project

Pending the outcomes of various funding channels we’ve investigated to advance the Cowra Biomass Project, CLEAN has been consolidating and planning ongoing aspects of the project.

We’ve been reviewing and finalising the pre-feasibility study.  As we work towards an investment-ready position, the project report for our Growing Community Energy grant has been approved by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OE&H), from whom we has also be seeking a Thriving Regional Networks tender. That’s building on the good traction already established with government agencies in the OE&H, Department of Primary Industries and NSW Trade and Investment.  

We’re about to begin testing levels of engagement in the investment sector and with environmental philanthropics, pertinent institutes and research centres nationally. Currently in the process of finalising on the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with Cowra Council, we’re confident this will stand our future activities in good stead. In this regard we’re envisaging a public media event to demonstrate the potential of the project.  An aggregated feedstocks trial on-site in Cowra would serve the dual purpose of getting a report on the BMP (bio-methane potential) of various local waste aggregations, while demonstrating to locals, media and the political sector how this project will actually work.  Local farmers and other potential biomass contributors are raring to go, so we’re hoping to galvanise political interest while providing a clear hands-on demonstration to funding groups such as ARENA.

Simon Wright, a PhD research student linked with the Institute of Sustainable Futures and CSIRO has been conducting a series of interviews on community and sustainability networks connected with this project.  He’s interviewed about 30 people, from farmers to government agency individuals. Outcomes for this data analysis will provide good news stories and further online engagement for the project.  

As all this activity moves forward, we are reviewing some of the other funding angles available.  The material we’ve gathered for Advancing Renewables and other applications will be relevant to both our status as a small to medium size enterprise and around start-ups as well.   We’re hoping all this positive project development is not lost on our local state and federal members.

NB: Writer, journalist, Mick Daley has come on board in a communications role for CLEAN, writing our blogs and other material.

Public Meeting: Findings of the Pre- feasibility Study

A public meeting was held to present the findings of the Pre- feasibility Study for the Cowra Biomass Project Development and the launch of the CLEAN Cowra Inc website.

Meeting was attended by project partners OEH Sustainability Advantage and Cowra Council, key stakeholders, and well supported by community members and the media on a brisk winter morning.

The website will provide a useful platform for telling the CLEAN Cowra Story and obtaining further engagement with the project..

CLEAN facilitator Dylan Gower, provided a presentation of the findings, which was an opportunity to outline the investigations which had been undertaken over the past 18 months. The website was used as a template to describe the process. It also describe the next steps the project would take in developing to next level.

Member of the CLEAN Executive, Eugene Marais, provided a report on the funding received for the project and how it had been expended to date. In addition , he presented the findings Analysis of the feasibility Modelling and business case. A summary described the scope of the project for the broader vision for the project development and utilised conservative inputs for figures indicated. 

The summary indicated a reasonable IRR with the base figures utilised. Eugene also raised the issue of sensitivity within the the analysis specifically related to the energy potential from the feedstocks, the value of energy produced and the value of the digestate from the process. 

The presentation was well received, and many positive comments were provided. Both members of Council and Sustainability Advantage's project officer Jo Cooper, indicating that it was a very thorough and detailed presentation. The type of questioning, provided an indication of the level of engagement the stakeholders have with the project. 

The presentation attracted good media coverage and the links have been provided below.

 

Prime 7 News:

https://au.prime7.yahoo.com/n3/news/a/-/national/31949306/cowra-to-clean-up-video/  

 

 

ABC Local News Features C.L.E.A.N.

ABC local News featured C.L.E.A.N. Cowra Inc in a recent article. 

Click on the link to read the full article: 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-07/cowra-biomass-project-reduces-waste-and-generates-electricity/7226758

 
 
                                                     Dylan Gower at the wastewater treatment plant that is part of the planned Cowra biomass project

                                                     Dylan Gower at the wastewater treatment plant that is part of the planned Cowra biomass project

 

CLEAN Energy Grant Funding

We have been successful in securing a Growing Community Energy Grant through NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s Regional Clean Energy program.

“The Program creates opportunities for communities throughout New South Wales to participate in local renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.”  

We intend to use this early stage funding to establish a viable community-owned business model that is beneficial and attractive to local investors.

We acknowledged the extensive support we have received in evolving the project to this stage and look forward to developing this exciting, local initiative further.

The CLEANinc Team