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Australia’s first straw-fired power plant project one step closer to realisation

Development of Australia’s first straw-fuelled power plant is a step closer, with the Yorke Biomass Energy (YBE) project receiving an AU$476 000 funding grant from the South Australian Government. The grant, which forms part of the State Government’s Renewable Technology Fund, will be used to finance the feasibility assessment of Yorke Biomass Energy’s 15 MWe demonstration project at Ardrossan on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

Australia’s first straw-fired power plant project, Yorke Biomass Energy has received an AU$476 000  funding grant from the South Australian government. Subject to securing financial close, the 15 MWe plant could be operational in early 2020.

According to a statement, the demonstration project will produce 15 MW of power and showcase how a straw-burning generator can provide reliable 24/7 renewable power, while also delivering new jobs, new incomes for farmers and lower power prices. Yorke Biomass Energy (YBE) is aiming for the Ardrossan power plant to be operational in early 2020.

Once the demonstration project is complete, YBE plans to replicate the project across South Australia (SA) in remote and off-grid locations, particularly where crop farming and mining projects are located. According to a statement, several other potential locations have already been identified, primarily on the state’s Eyre Peninsula, to produce up to 150 MW of baseload power.

Funding a major boost

Yorke Biomass Energy Chairman Terry Kallis says the State Government funding grant is a major boost for the continued development of straw-fuelled power.

This funding grant will enable us to take some big steps forward with our demonstration project and proceed through to financial close during the second half of 2018. It’s also a fantastic vote of confidence in the project by the South Australian Government, which continues to look at innovative new ways to provide cheaper, greener and more reliable energy in South Australia, said Kallis.

The demonstration project will be located near the Ardrossan West substation and be based on existing plants operated by Spain-headed Acciona, a global developer and management service provider of infrastructure, renewable energy and water projects. Acciona is also Yorke Biomass Energy’s exclusive contractor for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the plant.

Sustainable job generator

Approximately 90 000 tonnes of straw per annum is expected to be required from local farms to operate the Ardrossan plant, which will create up to 40 long-term jobs through the plant’s operation, as well as through the ongoing collection and transportation of straw.

YBE has a novel cooperative-style business model in which local biomass suppliers own and operate a company called Yorke Biomass Supply, which has an exclusive contract with YBE for the supply of suitable biomass.

More importantly, as Kallis points out, biomass energy has the highest per MW 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. According to Kallis, ongoing jobs created by a 15 MW biomass project is equal to that of a 500 MW wind farm project.

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

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