An anaerobic digester capable of powering up to 1000 homes is expected to be built within a year at the energy park developing on Maryborough’s outskirts.
The company developing the new energy park sited off the Pyrenees Highway between Maryborough and Carisbrook — Australian Renewable Energy Parks — recently signed an agreement with Queensland company, Utilitas, to build, own and operate an anaerobic digester at the local site.
The anaerobic digester will take organic waste and convert it into electricity and heat energy.
It’s the latest significant step in work to develop the former Penney and Lang abattoir site and follows a $900,000 investment, funded by Central Goldfields Shire Council and the state government, to establish ground and roadworks into the site.
Utilitas managing director, Fiona Waterhouse on Friday told The Advertiser the new plant is expected to be established inside a year.
Queensland based Ms Waterhouse said the anaerobic digester will use waste, including agricultural waste to generate one megawatt of electricity per hour.
“We’re already constructing projects for clients but this is the first of our build, own, operate projects. Which means we will actually build, own and operate it,” she said.
“This technology that we use is really mainstream technology widely deployed in Europe.
“It’s very green. Basically it’s carbon neutral.
“For Australia it will be significant. There’s one other municipal organic plant in Sydney.
“I think it’s very exciting and I think it’s a good opportunity for job creation and education and your area can really capitalise on the opportunity that a plant like this has for demonstrating a more sustainable way of producing energy.”
Australian Renewable Energy Parks director, Ray Gatiss said the agreement with Utilitas paves the way for Maryborough to become an “important demonstration site for other municipalities and even other countries”.
“It’s a very exciting development. It allows us to deal with organic liquids and convert them into electricity and into biogas and also a great soil conditioner,” he said.
Organic waste products from throughout the shire and wider region could be fed into the facility and diverted from landfill, Mr Gatiss said.
“We are working on all the permits that are required, particularly the EPA requirements so we’re hopeful that we can be looking to have the plant up and running by early next year,” Mr Gatiss said.
He said the energy generation plant could be expected to create up to six permanent fulltime jobs with more employment created in the construction phase.
Across the Penney and Lang site, which has been subdivided into three lots, up to 20 jobs are hoped to be created long-term with several other compatible businesses expected to co-locate on site.
“We have another heads of agreement with a company that is interested in producing organic fertiliser,” Mr Gatiss said.
A plant nursery is also earmarked for the site.
“We think that over the next three to four years we’d be looking to spend up to $20 million and a lot of that will be spent in Maryborough which is great for the local economy,” Mr Gatiss said.
“The other thing about the site that I think is really exciting is that it will be a demonstration site.
“Global buyers and also other councils from around Australia will actually come to Maryborough to look at this site and look at what Utilitas is doing.
“We see Central Goldfields as being a pioneer in this area and it’s an area that I think affects every council really. Waste is just a big issue for them.”
Central Goldfields general manager of technical services, David Sutcliffe said waste from across the shire is currently transported to landfill sites near Echuca and Stawell.
Mr Sutcliffe said the energy park project and anaerobic digester holds potential for this waste to instead be used at the site, avoiding transport costs associated with trucking it to landfill.
“There’s certainly a leadership issue here for us. I guess we’re being a leader in the state, even in the country,” Mr Sutcliffe said.