Tweed joins regional push for bioenergy production

Luis Feliu

Tweed shire is getting behind a cutting-edge regional project to convert organic trade, household an industry waste into a renewable-energy source.

The Northern Rivers Biohub study also aims to encourage community and businesses to get involved by providing the biomass (such as trade, agricultural and food waste, parks and garden clippings) for conversion to energy through technologies such as anaerobic digestion, gasification and direct combustion.

Tweed councillors last Thursday unanimously approved the inclusion of Murwillumbah industrial estate and surrounds in the biohub study, which is funded under state and federal grants.

In her report to council, director of community and natural resources Tracey Stinson said the study was an exciting and unique opportunity ‘to test the feasibility of bioenergy developments that could support Tweed businesses, develop bioenergy expertise in the Shire, build on community support for renewable energy and transition to the use of locally sourced carbon-positive energy sources’.

Ms Stinson said the study, was funded by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers, and the project steering committee had opted to expand its scope to investigate a potential biohub site based around the Murwillumbah industrial estate, and other nearby sources of biomass.

She said boutique Byron-shire based beer producer Stone and Wood’s operations in Murwillumbah played a major part in choosing the town as a ‘biohub’ site.

‘Stone and Wood have participated in regional bioenergy discussions and indicated their interest in diverting organic waste materials from their operations into bioenergy options,’ Ms Stinson said.

She said the project idea came up at the 2014 North Coast Energy Forum sponsored by Tweed Shire Council, when Utilitas, a Brisbane-based company specialising in developing anaerobic digestion bioenergy facilities
(use of organic waste to generate energy), offered to supply $1,000,000 worth of in-kind support to develop five bioenergy/ biogas projects in the northern rivers region to ‘investment ready’ stage.

‘The Sustain Energy working group are a regional consortium of northern rivers councils,
(including Tweed, Byron, Lismore, Ballina and Kyogle), government agencies, community centres, educational organisations (North Coast TAFE, Southern Cross University), working towards a resilient and sustainable energy system in the Northern Rivers,’ she said.

The OEH provided $40,000 in funding to the group to investigate technical, economic and environmental considerations of potential ‘biohub’ sites at Nimbin Valley Dairy and Casino Meatworks.

’The funding requires the project to place a strong emphasis on describing community benefits such as potential ownership, investment and participation models, and the establishment of a “social licence” or demonstrated community support to use biomass in energy production,’ Ms Stinson said.

The project is led by Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre, on behalf of Sustain Energy.

Regional Development Australia Northern Rivers also recently offered a $40,000 contribution for the project, which will now look at the Murwillumbah biohub site.

The Northern Rivers biohub project phases include identifying biomass resources and available technology for three specific sites as well as identifying potential ‘Bioenergy’ project markets and opportunities in the region.

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