The Australian government, through its Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), is to provide $18 million dollars in grant funding to develop Australia’s second energy-from-waste plant, based in Western Australia.
The facility in East Rockingham is expected to process 300,000 tonees of residual waste from non-recyclable waste, delivering 29MW of baseload electricity capacity. That’s enough to provide power to more than 36,000 homes1.
If you think that sounds like a colossal asset, you’d be right.
Think for a moment of what that asset will entail. On a surface level, it’s an asset that promises to yeild energy generation from our waste, effectively killing two birds with one stone. That landfill problem causing headaches to our local councils? Solved. That pesky climate issue rippling through every political and social sphere on reducing the nation’s carbon emissions? Solved.
At first glance, nothing much changes from a household waste perspective: we’ll still sort our recyclables and non-recyclable materials, and place on the kerb for the garbos to pick up, weekly or fortnightly, depending on your local council. The second step is where we really see the power in this plant. All waste that previously was sent to landfill will now be diverted to the waste-to-energy plant. The residual waste is processed at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), releasing energy trapped in the waste and allowing it to be reused, and transformed into electricity that is fed back into homes and industries2, providing consumers with a renewable energy option that is not reliant on changeable and unreliable weather-generated options.
Look a little more earnestly and we’ll understand more of the asset’s value. A waste-to-energy plant requires many stages of engineering feats and expertise. There’s the construction of the facility—an asset itself—and acquisition of assets required within and external to it. That includes sorting machinery and conveyor belts, refuse boilers, ash residue management systems and other processing equipment, smaller tools and machines, as well as trucks, bins, incinerators, quality control computer systems and data. To highlight just a few.
And the value brought about by this asset extends far beyond the profits to the asset owners. Everyone benefits from cheaper and reliable renewable energy, as well as the support from the facility into community organisations and businesses. And we don’t have the unsightly and unheathly problem of landfill sites, destroying and stinking up the planet and our ecosystems.
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2 Info in paragraph sourced: http://www.newenergycorp.com.au/what-we-do/waste-to-energy-process/