Ex-straw-dinary Energy Solution

Published on 21 August 2018

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SOUTH west Victorian farmers, manufacturers and hospitals may soon benefit from German innovation by turning straw into pellets that can supply heat and energy.

Willaura farmer Nick Paterson and Streatham farmer Scott Blurton will represent the ‘Straw Alliance’ this month when they travel to Germany to observe the Krone Premos 5000 Pellet Harvester in action.

Pyrenees Shire Mayor, David Clark, said a Central Highlands Straw Pellet Alliance was formed to explore opportunities to turn farm stubble into straw pellets which could then be used to generate energy.

“The Straw Alliance includes Pyrenees Shire Council, the City of Ballarat, Cultivate Agribusiness, Regional Development Victoria and nine innovative grain producers,” Cr Clark said.

“The Alliance was formed two years ago when the nine grain farmers identified straw pellets as a potential economic use for residual crop straw. These farmers collectively farm around 14,000 hectares of cereal crops, capable of producing 50,000 tonnes of straw.

“Thanks to funding from Regional Development Victoria, we conducted a feasibility study and found that a fixed pellet plant was not viable due to the high cost of production, which would result in the straw pellets being financially uncompetitive as an energy supply. However, new technology for a mobile straw pellet machine, like the Krone Premos 5000, has emerged which has the ability to decrease production costs and make straw pellets price competitive.”

Cr Clark said AME Systems in Ararat and Skipton Hospital were both keen to adopt bioenergy technology as demonstration sites that could benefit rural manufacturers and rural health service providers across Victoria.

“AME Systems is currently seeking to generate its electricity supply and factory heating requirements from locally sourced agricultural waste (stubble straw) rather than continuing to rely on LPG deliveries and grid supplies of electricity. Beaufort and Skipton Health Services is currently seeking to generate its hydronic heating and hot water requirements at the Skipton Hospital from locally sourced agricultural waste (stubble straw) rather than continuing to rely on LPG deliveries. This follows the economic and environmental success of the wood chip furnace installed at its Beaufort Campus in 2014,” he said.

“We chose a small rural hospital and a rural business like AME Systems because we believe this model can be replicated in other small rural wheat-belt towns. If successful, this project is a win for the environment, for the agricultural community, small manufacturers and rural health services.”