After 11 years of research, the Rainbow Bee Eater (RBE) group have invented a waste-fuelled power plant that uses biomass to create clean burning fuel gas and electricity in a single step, with the aim of solving power generation and reliability issues in regional Australia, without the need for government subsidies or grants to be cost-effective.
Peter Burgess, RBE managing director, told ABC News that the ECHO2 power plant used building wood waste that is trucked in from capital cities to create hot water, electricity and carbon dioxide, along with creating biochar, which then on-sold.
“That wood waste will come into the system, it will create synthetic gas, which will then go into an engine that drives a generator to make electricity. Some of the synthetic gas will go into a boiler to make hot water,” Burgess continued.
“The exhaust from that boiler is very clean – it’s a rich source of CO2, carbon dioxide. That will go into the glasshouse to enrich the CO2 levels in the glasshouse, which is a way that glasshouse operators lift the yield of their plants.
“The plant could be established anywhere in Australia with access to suitable biomass fuel such as woodchips, baled straw or poultry litter, making it an option for small regional communities struggling with power reliability issues.
“We started this so that it didn’t require government subsidies, so that it would actually stand alone. The value of the biochar, the value of the gas and the electricity would pay for all of this and give someone a profit.”
According to the CSIRO, bioenergy currently accounts for just 0.9 per cent of Australia’s electricity output, which is much lower than the OECD country average of 2.4 per cent. One of the biggest barriers is the cost of energy production.
Australia is currently the only OECD country that has not implemented a large-scale waste-to-energy scheme.