While the Australian energy industry and Australians’ efforts to generate and use clean energy is a huge step in the right direction, a holistic approach towards clean energy generation and use must be fostered to give clean energy the power to make an impact.
Australia’s energy industry is becoming increasingly clean, with at least 35 per cent of Australia’s energy needs expected to be met by renewable energy solutions by 2021. Furthermore, Australians are more eco-conscious than ever in terms of their energy, technology and transport choices.
With this mindset, paired with a growing network of reliable charging stations, it won’t be long before Australia sees a surge in the uptake of electric vehicles and other clean, battery powered technology. But how far can the benefits of these eco-friendly options go if they’re powered by energy generated from coal?
This is the type of question that Veolia continues to explore at the site of its Woodlawn Eco-Precinct. The Bioreactor on site maximises the recovery of energy by generating electricity from methane gas, created by decomposing waste. But while this process was an important way to create energy from waste gases, Veolia realised it could further maximise the amount of clean energy generated by further investing in other methods of renewable energy generation within the Eco-Precinct.
Wind and solar for Woodlawn
Considering all aspects of the production cycle has seen Veolia maximise Woodlawn’s potential with the installation of a 2.5MW solar farm. Veolia is no stranger to the benefits of solar farms, having installed a number across the country for organisations including the award winning solar battery at University of Sunshine Coast, and Mid North Coast Local Health District, where an energy performance contract is set to achieve energy savings of over 4,070,106 kWh-e.
The solar farm at Woodlawn uses a NEXTracker single-axis tracking system for maximum solar generation, and includes 7200 solar PV modules which provide energy directly to the precinct. Since its installation in July 2019, the $5.5 million initiative has not only offset emissions, but also site costs, with the bulk of electricity used to power its waste processing activities being generated by the solar farm.
Further to the solar farm, Woodlawn is also home to a 23 turbine wind farm, owned and managed by Infigen Energy. This group of 2.1MW turbines, with an installed capacity of 48.3MW, produces enough energy to power approximately 32,000 average Australian households each year through the national energy grid. This represents a saving of about 138,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.
When maximising clean energy production, it’s important to consider what options are viable for a specific site. The Woodlawn site is particularly suited to both solar and wind generation, with high levels of sun exposure and the perfect mix of wind, climate patterns and typography for wind power.
Going the extra mile
Veolia is continually exploring ways the facility can further contribute to the circular vision for waste management and energy production.
“We’re very keen to expand our resource recovery at the facility. Our next areas of focus are to harness waste heat and waste carbon dioxide that we’re generating, and we have some exciting plans in the works in this space, that would make the facility a contributor to the circular economy at every level,” says Henry Gundry, Manager of Woodlawn Eco-precinct.
“We also have an onsite aquaculture farm which is gathering heat from our landfill biogas engine, and we see a real avenue to progress into food production, using waste heat from the engines, and potential CO2 recovery in large scale greenhouses.
“This is our vision, and the next step will be about bringing these ideas into fruition.”
An example to industry
By maximising clean energy production on the Woodlawn Eco-Precinct, and capturing emissions and other waste products, the Woodlawn eco-precinct is taking a holistic approach to waste and clean energy production.
With time, this is an approach that must be adopted by the energy industry as a whole in order for it to reap the full benefits that renewables have to offer, and critically, to minimise the impact of traditional energy generation on the environment.