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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Have your say on Byron Council’s plan for a $15m bioenergy facility

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Ideas and feedback are being sought on Byron Council’s plan to build a $15 million bioenergy facility that would convert much of the Shire’s organic waste into renewable energy.

Council say, if built, the facility would be the first of its kind in Australia and would process residential green bin waste, commercial food waste, and grease trap waste into biogas, via a process called anaerobic digestion.

Byron Council project manager, John Hart. Image Paul Bibby

Also to be converted would be wastewater from the Byron Bay Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), which is where the proposed facility would be located.

Council had previously proposed to build the facility at the Brunswick Valley STP on Vallances Road, but changed the location in 2018. 

According to Council, the entire process would generate approximately four million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity per year, equivalent to powering 267 households.

This electricity would be used to run the Byron Bay STP – one of Council’s most power-hungry operations – with the excess energy fed into the grid, creating a revenue stream which Council hopes will make the project economically viable.

‘This could revolutionise the production of bioenergy in this country’, the manager of the project John Hart said.

‘It doesn’t require any fossil fuels to operate, effectively solves the Shire’s organic waste problem, and it stacks up financially on its own’.

Key to this financial viability is the fact that phosphate-rich bio soil compost is made as a byproduct of the process.

Council believes this will be highly sought after by farmers around the region, creating an additional revenue stream. Money will also be saved by the removal of the need to truck the Shire’s organic waste to Yatala in Queensland, a practice that also comes at a heavy environmental cost.

Funding needed

However, Council would still need between $15m and $20m to build the facility.

‘We’re in the process of applying to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency for funding’, Mr Hart said.

‘They offer funding of up to 50 per cent, but realistically, we’re hoping for between 20 and 40 per cent.’

The Council is considering partially funding the remainder from its Sewerage Fund Capital Works Reserve.

The Council has promised that the facility would have no negative impact on the surrounding environment, and that there would be virtually no noise or smell from the waste conversion process itself.

However, the operation would require a significant increase in truck movements into and out of the site, though Council says it would reduce the number of truck movements in the region overall.

This is largely because it will remove the need to truck organic waste to Queensland. This costly process is one of the difficulties Council currently faces when dealing with the 20,000 tonnes of waste generated in the Shire each year.

This includes the fact that neither the Queensland facility, nor Lismore’s composting facility, is able to accept biosolids.

The Lismore facility is also unable to take dewatered grease trap waste.

Currently the majority of the Shire’s commercial organic waste – from cafes, restaurants and farms – goes into landfill; something it hopes to change if the facility goes ahead.

‘By creating renewable energy here in the Byron Shire, and using our green waste to fuel it, we can reduce landfill, get trucks off the road, and work smart as a community to tackle climate change’, Mayor Simon Richardson said.

‘By investing in this technology, Council will reduce its emissions, increase productivity of its sewage treatment plant, create jobs in the renewables sector and support the local agriculture industry’.

The project is currently in its feasibility stage, and Council is seeking feedback and suggestions from the local community.

To have your say, go to www.yoursaybyronshire.com.au/byron-shire-bioenergy-facility.

Council staff will also be at the farmers markets in Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Byron Bay in coming weeks. 


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12 COMMENTS

  1. In a previous document, Council explains that the biowaste is converted to methane, by fermentation, which is then burnt. This produces CO2. So the process still emits a greenhouse gas. Not sure how this reduces the Council’s carbon footprint.

    • Difference is that Bio process does not add additional CO2 to the Atmosphere.. Plants / Animals only release what they have absorbed from Atmosphere. ie net change = 0
      whereas
      Fossil Fuels take CO2 from underground and shift it into the Atmosphere.

  2. Burning the Methane for electricity will increase the Shires greenhouse gas pollution. Lismore’s facillity will take all our kerbside pick up green waste. Councils fake alleged bio energy carbon pollution reduction is purely a bookkeeping slight of hand of financially tradeable ‘green energy’ certificates. Should this farce go ahead then Byron Council joins the Condong sugar plant ‘green energy’ which burns forest ‘waste’ and sugar cane ‘waste’, with a significant greenhouse gas polution, but also earns tradable ‘green energy ‘ certificates. Byron Council is ignoring the actual carbon cycle.

  3. John,
    The emissions of organic matter by ‘natural’ decomposition are far higher than when methane is fermented and burned. Council and the world as a whole benfits from lower emissions by acvoiding decomposition, plus has the added benefit of replacing ‘dirty’ grid electricity in the process. A double winner.

    • NSW Govt Dept of Climate Change. Report :The benefits of using compost for mitigating climate change:
      4.1 Findings This report, which has assessed whether and to what extent the use of compost can assist in mitigating climate change, has clearly demonstrated that using compost saves GHG emissions by the following direct and indirect means: reducing methane emissions from landfill, reducing GHG emissions through improved manure management, sequestering biogenic, compost derived carbon in the soil, replacing the use of mineral fertilisers,reducing methane emissions from soil, or increasing soil methane absorption,reducing nitrous oxide emissions from soil, improving plant biomass production, resulting in increased sequestration of plant carbon, supplying auxiliary GHG emission savings (e.g. reduced need for irrigation, reduced erosion, reduced liming, reduced nitrate leaching).

  4. I’d like to see Byron Shire follow the path of Loganholme, QLD if it is economically viable which I understand it is for 20,000 population and up. Why? Because it uses all of the heat to dry the biosolids, meets EPA guidelines for any emissions, deals with a problematic wastestream and dramatically reduces the volume of the material this dramtically reducing transport cost. The advantage of biochar over a digestate product is that it is a permanent store of carbon that can be used in applications from soils to roads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahetsXyFU6M&feature=youtu.be

    • Absolutely correct Don, you’ve nailed it!!
      Logan Council has very little to be proud of I can assure you, but this is a winner.

  5. Can someone explain why this is being called renewable energy? I’m not seeing any renewing, yes some biomimicry and a step in the right direction, but how can this energy be renewed? Once converted and burnt its gone.

  6. Hardly an Australian first, Rocky Point Sugar Mill, 30 MW bagasse, built 2001

    Not very nice

    I would hope cane would be made into natural bio-plastic in the future.

    Our own personal waste – bio-cycle septic and composting both feed our garden.
    Don’t make your waste someone else’s problem.

  7. Burn a kilogram of methane and you get 2.75 kg of of CO2.Greenhouse emissions.

    “Western Australia Govt
    The aerobic process of composting does not produce methane because methane-producing microbes are not active in the presence of oxygen. The remaining carbon is stable humus that is weed-free and safe to use for agriculture, landscaping, gardening or other purposes.” And actually sequesters carbon into the soil.

    The council proposed anerobic Green Waste process to produce Methane, and the Methane then used to fuel the bioenergy plant, will increase the Shires Greanhouse gas pollution, as compared to aerobic composting the Shires Green Waste.

  8. Have the Council investigated the Hazer technology where the methane from the biogas is split into hydrogen and graphite. This then makes the process carbon negative. The hydrogen can be used to generate electricity via a fuel cell, run fuel cell electric vehicles and the graphite sold on to the market as battery quality material. A commercial development plant, funded by ARENA, is being built at the Woodman Point water treatment facility in Perth.

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