Renewable straw power potential for Eyre Peninsula

Australia’s first straw-fuelled power plant, planned to be up and running on the Yorke Peninsula in 2020, could be followed by similar power plants on the Eyre Peninsula.

Yorke Biomass Energy this week received a $476,000 grant from the state government’s Renewable Technology Fund, to finance a feasibility assessment of a demonstration project at Ardrossan.

Yorke Biomass Energy chairman Terry Kallis said the grant was a major boost for the continued development of straw-fuelled power.

Yorke Biomass Energy chairman Terry Kallis said the grant was a major boost for the continued development of straw-fuelled power.

The demonstration project will produce 15 megawatts of power and show how a straw-burning generator can provide 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week renewable power, while also delivering jobs, new incomes for farmers and lower power prices.

Once the demonstration project is complete, Yorke Biomass Energy plans to replicate it across South Australia in remote and off-grid locations, particularly where cropping and mining projects are located.

Potential locations have already been identified, primarily on Eyre Peninsula, to produce up to 150MW of base-load power.

Yorke Biomass Energy chairman Terry Kallis said the Iron Road project was an example of the type of location the company was looking for.

“There are about eight or 10 locations on the Eyre Peninsula, with some interest down south closer to Port Lincoln,” Mr Kallis said.

“Preferably it would be the larger mining developments, such as the Iron Road project, and we will be targeting sites that use at least 10 megawatts.”

Mr Kallis said the grant was a major boost for the continued development of straw-fuelled power.

About 90,000 tonnes of straw a year is expected to be required from local farms to operate the Ardrossan plant, which will create up to 40 long-term jobs, as well as through the ongoing collection and transportation of straw.

Biomass energy has the highest per megawatt employment creation of any form of renewable energy, so the potential for new jobs in regional South Australia is significant given the planned pipeline of projects.

For example, ongoing jobs created by a 15MW biomass project is equal to a 500MW wind farm project.

“In addition to the potential 150MW of projects in SA, we have identified the possibility for a further 450MW in other states including Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia,” said Mr Kallis.

“We believe straw-fuelled power generation can play an important role in Australia’s energy mix.

“It can help reduce the cost of electricity and create new economic benefits to local rural communities, as well as helping resolve issues between mining and agricultural pursuits in a win-win manner.

“There are also significant environmental benefits on offer, such as improvements to sustainable local farming in terms of soil health, crop rotation and weed management, in addition to reduced greenhouse gases and improved energy security.”

Yorke Biomass Energy is aiming for the Ardrossan power plant to be operational in early 2020.