Farmers and agricultural stakeholders can find out more about opportunities to generate energy from farm business waste to provide a new income stream or reduce running costs, and help regional communities to solve waste issues.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development research officer Kim Brooksbank will deliver a presentation on the future of bioenergy at the Critical Horizons energy futures conference to be held in Collie on 7-8 June.
The conference will focus on the future of energy production and storage plus global trends that could be relevant for regional areas of Western Australia.
Dr Brooksbank said there was burgeoning interest in the use of agricultural biomass, or secondary agricultural products such as straw, animal manure and vegetable waste, to make biofuel or biogas.
“While secondary agricultural products may have a higher value when used to improve soil to help regenerate farmland, where that isn’t feasible, bioenergy could represent the best value use of the products,” Dr Brooksbank said.
“Bioenergy provides a market for agricultural products that are already grown, is a carbon neutral energy source, and is a baseload power source that provides stable and renewable energy systems.
“Farmers currently produce about 10 million tonnes of straw, which is considered waste, across the Grainbelt each year.
“That’s enough to provide a third of the electricity used in WA or, if it was made into ethanol, more than enough fuel to replace all the unleaded petrol used in WA.
“If we seize bioenergy opportunities now, there could soon be an explosion of new industries being created out of materials that we recently considered to be waste.”
Dr Brooksbank has mapped the biomass available for use in WA as part of a national mapping project funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and managed by AgriFutures.
“Industry pre-feasibility work on WA locations where bioenergy makes the most sense is underway, based on the knowledge gained from this mapping exercise,” he said.
“The work will lead to a prospectus of opportunities that will be presented to industry.
“Bioenergy installations already up and running as a result of the work include changing steam generation from gas powered to biomass powered at two abattoirs, and the building of a biodigester at a piggery near Kojonup that will provide all the business’s power needs from pig waste,” he said.
The Critical Horizons – Powering the Future of WA conference, which is organised by the South West Development Commission, will be held in Collie on 7-8 June. There will be a full day conference on Friday 8 June, following a welcome function on Thursday 7 June.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to the website at criticalhorizons.com.au
Media contacts: Jodie Thomson/Dionne Tindale, DPIRD media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937