A large-scale renewable energy biogas power generation plant using manure from 18 dairy farmers is planned for the New South Wales Illawarra region. The farmers have entered a partnership with energy company Innovating Energy, which will build the facility.

The project received a grant from the federal Microgrid Energy Initiative and also had the backing of the New South Wales government appointed dairy advocate, Ian Zandstra, whose farm is included in the group.

The manure from each dairy will be collected to feed and operate the biogas plant, which will be built on one of the farms. The electricity produced will be shared between the dairies and the excess sold to retail customers.

Once the digestion process is complete and the methane gas is extracted from the manure and bio-solid additives, a nutrient rich loam is left which can be spread on the dairy’s pastures.

Zandstra said: “Using manure from the dairies to run the biogas plant will not only provide clean renewable energy, but once fully operational it will address the challenges of manure storage over the year. It will allow a timely spreading of nutrient rich organic fertiliser on the farms from the biogas process, which is great news for the local environment.”

Local fourth generation dairy farmers Tim Cochrane and his brother Tom echoed Zandstra’s comments. “The plant will provide significant cost benefits and energy savings for dairying in the area and greatly assist in dealing with manure clean-up.

“Rising energy costs are a major consideration in operating dairy farms, particularly the costs associated with keeping milk at the required temperature prior to pick up by the processors,” they said.

Innovating Energy managing director David Ryan said the Nowra plant would be the first one developed. The company had secured a number of sites at dairies, pig farms, beef cattle feedlots and chicken farms in most states.

“The plant features the very latest in biogas equipment and technology creating a zero-emission unit producing clean, green energy 24/7. It will use manure and a number of other food and green waste inputs as well as energy crops grown using waste bio-solids, some of which are a by-product of milk bottling facilities.

“Incorporating waste milk products in the digestion process will create a true circular waste to energy cycle that uses all dairy waste,” Ryan said.

The plant build is expected to be completed by late 2021.

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