LGI renewable power project goes behind the meter

LGI renewable power

LGI’s latest biogas to renewable power project is the first of its kind, supplying a council wastewater treatment plant behind the meter.

Society’s demand for energy is not going to fade any time soon, says Matthew Tap, Project Manager at LGI.

Across the globe, energy use has continued to increase since the Industrial Revolution. Whether it’s natural gas, electricity, or oil, we’re reliant on it for everything from heating and cooling to transportation and communication.

Matthew says there’s a growing awareness of the emissions implications of how energy is produced and an aspiration to find solutions which minimise, reduce, or negate them.

“The impacts of climate change on our environment are undeniable,” Matthew says. “Energy production, in particular electricity, is one area where solutions are being developed. 

“We can be more efficient with the generation of energy and meeting demand.”

Matthew has had a keen interest in renewables and the technology that has driven the energy space in the past eight to 10 years. It wasn’t until interning with LGI in 2017 that biogas piqued his curiosity.

LGI specialises in capturing biogas from landfills to generate electricity. Most systems are registered to generate carbon credits and built for regional councils with minimal cost impact to the community, to help councils reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

LGI renewable energy
Matthew Tap, LGI Project Manager.

All landfills emit biogas, which is about 50 per cent methane, and can impact the environment and the community unless properly managed. Matthew says there’s a need to use it in the best way possible. 

“LGI is not a proponent of putting waste in landfill. By far the best outcome would be if we produced less waste and sent less waste to landfill,” Matthew says. 

“But even if we were to stop landfilling today there is still waste in the ground that will produce biogas and emissions for decades. We still need to manage the emissions created from the material we have in the ground.”

He says LGI has built more than 30 systems with biogas flaring and/or power generation on landfills in its 13-year history. In November it will flick the switch on a first-of-its-kind power station to supply the Toowoomba Regional Council’s wastewater treatment plant with electricity behind the meter.

LGI will use biogas produced by Toowoomba’s landfill to generate reliable, renewable electricity, which the council will buy back to power its Wetalla Water Reclamation Facility. The project will initially supply up to 70 per cent of the power required to run the facility.

“It’s not often you come across a project where you can do something this innovative and unique,” Matthew says.

“Toowoomba Regional Council, from the start, has voiced a need to do more than just extract biogas from this project. During a site inspection of the landfill, LGI realised there’s a lot of opportunity, with the wastewater treatment plant located across the road, to provide a service the council can use to reduce its bills.

“It’s turning something that used to be a liability into an environmental and financial benefit.”

LGI started with a biogas extraction system with a flare at the Toowoomba landfill in 2020 to abate carbon and improve local air quality. Since 2020, 7.3 cubic metres of biogas has been captured, the equivalent of 69,000 tonnes of carbon abatement (in CO2-equivalence).

Testing proved the gas field can support a 1000-kilowatt generator, consuming about 700 cubic metres an hour of biogas from the landfill. 

Matthew says the new power station has been designed for a capacity of up to 2000 cubic metres of gas. As the landfill builds, an additional generator can be installed. It’s also been future-proofed with the ability to add energy storage, such as a battery, down the track.

In August, Toowoomba Regional Council’s Water and Waste Committee portfolio leader Cr Nancy Sommerfield inspected the site.

At the time she described mitigating the effects of methane gas emissions from the landfill, while reducing the reliance on fossil fuels to power the Wetalla Water Reclamation Facility, as a win-win. Wetalla is one of the council’s highest energy users.

LGI renewable energy
Toowoomba biogas to power project – progress as at 5 October 2022.

“This type of reuse project will help to significantly reduce the emission rate and provide a return that allows council to reduce operating costs,” Nancy said.

She said the project set the scene for additional energy projects the council is investigating.

Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) created by the project under the Federal Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund have enabled carbon abatement and biogas-to-power from regional landfills such as these to be commercially viable.

LGI is also helping councils across the Australian east coast to capture biogas, decrease emissions and reduce their carbon footprint, including in Gladstone, Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Gympie, Moreton Bay and Brisbane in Queensland; Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Clarence Valley, Bega, Eurobodalla and Hawkesbury in New South Wales, as well as Mugga Lane and West Belconnen in the Australian Capital Territory.

At LGI’s seven landfill gas to power sites more than 87,500MWh is being produced annually – enough to power about 15,000 homes for a year. Once energised, Toowoomba will be LGI’s eighth power generation project.

Matthew praised Toowoomba Regional council for having the foresight to do more with the gas than what is standard practice.

“They pushed the envelope and it’s created something that sets a standard for the rest of the industry.”

For more information, visit: www.lgi.com.au

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