At Cowra in central west New South Wales, years of research and negotiation is coming to fruition with plans for a biomass project that could be the first of its kind in Australia. The project is about a community looking to the resources it has to provide what it needs and it could be a blueprint for other small agricultural-based towns. The Cowra biomass project has been likened to how a cow processes food. 

At full capacity the Cowra biomass project will produce an estimated 60% of Cowra's energy needs. It would involve construction of a biomass plant and an initial 2MW version is estimated to cost around $8 million.

A funding application is now underway with the national renewable energy agency ARENA and the project has already received more than $100,000 in grant funding from the Cowra Shire Council and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

 

The project is looking at the following inputs:

  • Sludge from water treatment plant
  • Green waste from the tip
  • Industry by-products such as sugary water from food factory
  • Waste from abattoir
  • Soiled straw from piggery
  • Horticultural by-products such as beetroot tops and corn trash

A mound of organic matter in front of some trees
A diagram map showing industry, recycling facility, agriculture, roads, rail and housing at Cowra

The biomass waste inputs and the energy outputs would be transported around Cowra through a network of pipes and wires and the project also proposes the re-opening of a section of disused railway line as well. There would be a need for processing and transport workers, as well as specialist technicians and a biomass engineer to run the gas, electricity and thermal production components.

A railway level crossing sign in the foreground with a factory in the background

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