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North wants to be Australia’s bioenergy capital

A push to make the Northern Rivers the bioenergy capital of Australia will be a key feature of an energy forum being held in Lismore on May 31. Source: The Northern Star

The North Coast Energy Forum will bring together over 100 people from the energy sector and various levels of government to discuss how the Northern Rivers can move towards a decentralised system of energy generation and distribution.

Northern Rivers already has two of the nation’s biggest bioenergy producers in the cogeneration facilities at Broadwater and Condong.

Ballina Council has also secured funding to build a commercial pyrolysis facility that will produce electricity and biochar from municipal green waste.

Forum Convenor Mark Byrne from the Total Environment Centre said the region’s high rainfall, good soils, agriculture industries, and “an educated and environmentally passionate community” makes the Northern Rivers the ideal place to develop a bio-energy industry.

“The opportunities are enormous, in areas as diverse as plantation timber sawmill waste, macadamia kernels and coffee bean husks, and methane capture from poultry, piggery and dairy farm wastes,” he said.

A report released from Sustain Northern Rivers has identified that as much as 28% of the region’s electricity could be generated from bioenergy.

Byrne said a pitch was presented to Page MP Janelle Saffin, who will be attending the forum, to see if she could help generate further government support for further research and development.

“The North Coast has one of the highest uptakes of domestic solar installations in Australia, but there are some problems with large scale solar and wind farms, but there is a lot of potential for bioenergy,” he said.

“The are some problems with burning things, and some people are worried that burning native forest residues will create a market for cutting down native forests, but that’s a debate we need to have.

“I think bioenergy is the way forward for the North Coast, it’s the best place in Australia for it, and that’s where the investment should be going.”

The Sustain Northern Rivers report focuses on three main processes: Anerobic digestion, combustion and pyrolysis.