Waste to energy: cows making power
18 dairy farming families from the NSW South Coast regional town of Nowra have joined together to support the establishment of a large-scale renewable energy biogas power generation plant. The plant, to be built by Innovating Energy, will be the first of several planned to be developed on a number of sites secured by the company, including dairies, pig farms, beef cattle feedlots and chicken farms in most states.
Innovating Energy’s Managing Director David Ryan has thanked Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, for his support after the minister announced that the project would be provided with grant assistance under the Federal Government’s Microgrid Energy Initiative. The Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has also shown great interest in this industry opportunity.
This project is unique in that the manure from each dairy in the group will be aggregated to feed and operate the biogas plant to be built on one of the farms. The electricity produced will be shared between the dairies, with the excess sold to retail customers.
Local fourth generation dairy farmers Tim Cochrane and his brother Tom, who have been two of the project’s active supporters, say that the biogas plant will provide significant cost benefits and energy savings for dairy farmers in the area. Rising energy costs are a major consideration in the operation of dairy farms, particularly the costs associated with keeping milk at the required temperature prior to pick-up by dairy processors.
The biogas project has the support of the NSW Government-appointed dairy advocate, Ian Zandstra, whose dairy farm is included in the group. Zandstra says that using manure from the dairies to run the biogas plant will not only provide clean renewable energy; once fully operational, the plant will address the challenges of manure storage before its subsequent use on farms as nutrient-rich organic fertiliser.
Once the necessary approvals have been finalised, the plant will be built over a 12- to 14-month period, with completion expected in late 2021. The plant features the very latest in biogas equipment and technology, creating a zero-emission unit that produces clean, green energy 24/7. The plant will use manure and a number of other food and green waste inputs, as well as waste bio-solids, some of which are a by-product of milk bottling facilities.
“Innovating Energy’s plans to incorporate waste milk products in the digestion process will create a true circular waste-to-energy cycle that uses all dairy waste,” Ryan says.
Once the digestion process is complete and the methane gas is extracted from the manure and bio-solid additives, a nutrient-rich loam is left, which can be spread on the dairy’s pastures – further adding to the circular economy effect for the dairy industry.