WA Turns Its Waste Into Energy

Wasted energy could be a thing of the past for Western Australia, with the state planning on redirecting waste from some landfill sites to create an alternative energy source.

There has been state government approval for Western Australia’s first large scale waste-to-energy facility in Boodarie near Port Hedland.

WA environment minister Albert Jacob said the New Energy facility was expected to process up to 255,000 tonnes of waste a year and put 15.5 megawatts of power back into the grid. As part of the approval, construction for the facility must start within the next five years.

“This is an exciting step forward for waste management in Western Australia,” he said.

“There are no other waste-to-energy plants of this scale currently operating in Australia. Waste-to-energy technology has the potential to offer an alternative to landfill with the additional benefit of energy generation.”

Other countries already use this technology, however, some green groups are worried there could be issues with emissions and that this doesn’t encourage people to reduce the amount of waste being produced in the state.

Mr Jacob said he was confident the existing regulatory regime under the Environmental Protection Act was well equipped to minimise and manage the environmental impact of waste-to-energy plants.

He said waste management in the Pilbara region of the state had struggled to keep up with the expansion of the resources industries, with a great increase in landfill, so this would improve waste management, increase recycling rates and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Western Australia Riding the Energy of Waves

Another form of alternative energy is rolling into Australian shores with West Australian renewable energy company Bombora Wave Power developing device to capture the power of the ocean and generate energy from the waves.

Bombora Wave Power aims to establish its wave energy conversion device (WECD) as the convergent technology in the sector by meeting industry cost targets for wave energy converters.

Bombora Wave Power founder and director Glen Ryan first thought of the the idea of the WECD more than six years ago and got his brother Shawn Ryan, a mechanical engineer and co-director, on board to help develop the technology.

The company was one of five in Australia and New Zealand to win the GE ecomagination Challenge, its first cleantech competition to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

The challenge had 191 entries and 35 finalists in the competition and winners received $100,000  with $10 million available to invest in promising start-ups and ideas from these and other entries that impressed the GE selection board.

Each Bombora device could supply electricity for up to 500 homes.

Western Australia also has another company, Perth-based Carnegie Wave Energy, getting a Federal Government grant to trial a desalination plant powered by waves.

The $2.5 million plant will be on Garden Island next to the company’s power station.

Carnegie Wave Energy already supplies wave energy power to naval base HMAS Stirling.



Raising Green Kids

When it comes to green living and looking after the environment, you can teach an old dog new tricks, but it pays to start young.

Children don’t know what they haven’t experienced and research is showing they’re experiencing more indoor play, than bonding with the outdoors and having imaginative play in the natural environment.

In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, George Monbiot promotes the idea that children must experience nature to understand why it deserves caring for.

Mr Monbiot said children who are brought up in a more indoor world will not fight to keep natural beauty pristine and may not work to slow the effects of climate change and other issues that environmental damage is causing.

“Without a feel for the texture and function of the natural world, without an intensity of engagement almost impossible in the absence of early experience, people will not devote their lives to its protection,” he wrote.

These children may also not understand the importance of living sustainably and building in an environmentally-friendly way.

Sir David Attenborough has also bemoaned the fact that many children lose interest in the natural world as they grow up.

“If you lose your interest in the natural world you’ve lost a very precious possession and something which could give you great pleasure for the rest of your life,” he told The Telegraph in the UK.

These commentators are supported by research that shows we need to teach the importance of the environment by parents and carers immersing children in the natural environment and raise the next generation of environmental caretakers.

These children may then be the next sustainability masterminds, devising new ways of building and living well into the future.

Australian Farm, a Shining Example of Alternative Energy

Solar energy is big business in the domestic market, but Australia has flicked the switched on its first large scale solar farm in October taking solar to new heights.
The solar farm is in Western Australia near Walkaway and is a co-operative effort between Verve Energy and General Electric.

The Greenough River Solar project could produce enough power to service 3000 homes or 10 megawatts. The farm uses more than 150,000 thin film photo voltaic modules and will displace 20,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year- the same as taking 4000 cars off the road.

“As the largest photovoltaic solar plant in operation in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia’s future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis. This is a positive first step in validating the bright future that large-scale solar represents in Australia,” Verve Energy CEO Jason Waters said.

The future plan is to expand the farm to 40 megawatts. The Western Australia Water Corporation will buy the electricity to power a nearby desalination plant. More solar farms are planned for country NSW, ACT and WA with other states also looking for alternative energy opportunities and domestic take up of solar systems has reached 858,000 homes across the country.

Making the Green Grade

The Green Building Council of Australia has reported the nation now has 500 green star rated projects, but could we do better?

Construction Source’s Andrew Heaton (www.designbuildsource.com.au) has questioned whether the country’s middle of the road ranking for energy efficiency (coming sixth out of 12) in the world’s largest economies is good enough with commentators saying we could improve.

The Green Star rating system for buildings was launched in 2003 to help the property and construction industry to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and improve, drive innovation in sustainable building practices, improve occupant health and productivity and save costs.

However, commentators such as WSP Built Ecology’s David Jarratt and iRubber ESD partner Ann Gardner said there were plenty of areas in which Australia could be doing more, particularly with building design and choice of materials due to costs and builders using products they’ve always used.

The issue could also be in educating young builders about environmentally-sustainable products. The Green Building Council of Australia, though, maintains that, with governments mandating green star rated buildings around the country, our numbers of sustainable buildings will only increase.

Along with this, the GBCA has stated that developers are raising the bar higher with each green project and owners and tenants want their buildings to be green and their lives enriched accordingly, meaning more energy savings for Australia and more Green Star projects embraced each year.

Search for alternatives heats up

As the seasons change, so do our heating and cooling needs and the ways we do this in our homes could change dramatically in coming years.

Not only is geothermal energy a great investment in the environment- it is emission-free, but it could reduce the costs associated with heating and cooling by 75 per cent because it takes its energy from the earth’s naturally-stored heat.

It works by circulating fluid, water or refrigerant through pipes installed in building foundations or boreholes then back to the surface.

Therefore, it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To warm buildings, heat in the fluid is extracted through a heat pump and in summer this is revered with heat removed from the building by the pump and deposited underground.

The Victorian Government has already invested $1.6 million for The University of Melbourne and its industrial partners, Geotechnical Engineering and Direct Energy to further investigate this form of heating and cooling.

As great as this system is, geothermal energy doesn’t generate or replace our need for electricity, but it does save energy and reduce our effects on the environment.

Building on this, Geoscience Australia estimated that by using only one per cent of the geothermal heat resource within the top five kilometres of the earth’s crust, we could provide 26,000 times our annual energy consumption.

Australia will continue to explore this alternative energy source and, with further development, the price of introducing it to our homes will come down.