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Clean energy plan for state's south-west
Monday 13 March 2000

An Adelaide company, Origin Energy, is planning to commercialise 20-megawatt renewable energy cogeneration plants in the Green Triangle area in south-west Victoria and South Australia.

The company, formerly Boral Energy, has received a $750,000 Australian Greenhouse Office grant to immediately start work to fully assess the feasibility of the projects.

Origin Energy's general manager, major industry and power, Mr Andrew Stock, said the company was planning to spend between $30 million and $50 million on each cogeneration plant.

The project is part of a wider strategy by Origin Energy to develop a clean energy portfolio, including renewables and efficient power generation and cogeneration projects. The plant will burn a variety of sustainable biomass fuels including wood residue from softwood plantations and sawmilling and logging operations in the Green Triangle region. Some local agricultural waste might also be used in the process.

Mr Stock said there were no plans at this stage to use wood from the burgeoning blue gum plantations in the region. Softwoods were used in the biomass technology in Europe and North America, and the Green Triangle, with more than 150,000 hectares of softwood plantations, was one of Australia's main softwood growing areas.

While locations for the plants are yet to be finalised, it is expected each will be established close to existing plantations and timber processing operations. These will provide renewable energy fuel for the cogeneration plant and, in return, a market for the plant's heat output.

Commercial arrangements for each of the cogeneration plants will be completed over the coming months and construction is expected to take a further 18 months. Mr Stock hopes construction of the first plant could begin by the end of this year.

Mr Stock said one of the main benefits of the 20MW plants was their green operation and contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas savings will be in the order of 140,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year for the life of each project.

Mr Stock said the plants would service local industry, but remaining electricity would be exported to the power grid as renewable energy. A 40MW plant could supply power to up to 10 large factories.

Biomass is the name given to a variety of organic materials produced with the energy of the sun. Only about 14 per cent of the world's energy consumption is presently derived from biomass. In Australia the figure is as low as 5 per cent.

Biomass energy is one of the lowest cost renewable energy sources. It can be provided by a range of products from wood and wood waste, grasses, grains and seeds, agricultural waste, food processing waste and waste paper and cardboard.

Biomass fuel is abundant worldwide with some 220 billion tonnes of dry biomass produced each year. Much of this is made up of residues which are otherwise burnt or dumped. The increased efficiency of the use of residues, and energy production will assist the development of further forestry and forestry processing related industries.

Cogeneration is the name given to the technique of generating two or more forms of energy, usually heat and electricity, from one fuel. This could be the generation of electricity from a steam turbine with exhaust heat recovered to meet the heating needs of an industrial or commercial process. Cogeneration allows more of the fuel to be used both as heat and electricity, reducing site energy costs and environmental impact. It is a key technology in reducing Australia's level of CO2 emissions.

Mr Stock said the project would enable Origin Energy to develop skills and know how to competitively develop similar renewable cogeneration plants at other softwood processing sites in Australia and overseas.

The company has already established a $65 million gas power plant at Ladbroke Grove in South Australia and is continuing gas exploration around Warrnambool in south-west Victoria.

Origin Energy has invested in major cogeneration projects including: the Osborne Cogeneration Project in SA; BP's Bulwer Island oil refinery in Queensland; and BHP operations at Whyalla in SA; and Bridgestone (Australia) Tyre Production Plant in SA.


Posted as general awareness article. Are projects like this getting focus in America?

A wag would say that in OZ politics we've reached critical Biomass and all that needs doing is tap it as a resource, it is basically little good for anything else - but I'm not a wag so I won't.

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (, March 12, 2000



There are many cogen plants running in the US and even a few biomass plants. The cogen plants are only running because the utilities are forced to take their excess power at a cost that's usually far above market. I can't imagine how a 20Mw plant can ever make any money - the fixed costs are just too high without some subsidy from somewhere.

I suppose one could argue that subsidizing these plants makes sense as a prototype for the future when the oil runs out. I'm of the opinion that we'll see all kinds of alternative energy plants as soon as the price of oil makes it practical.

-- Jim Cooke (, March 13, 2000.

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