ARENA opens $15M solar panel recycling EOI

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide up to $15 million to support research addressing end-of-life issues for solar PV panels.

According to an ARENA statement, the agency is seeking to fund projects that improve the economics of recycling through better upfront design, increased recovered material value and innovations for reusing recycled components in new panels.

“Cost savings will enable both large-scale solar PV projects and roof-top PV customers to responsibly manage their waste, without significantly impacting the overall cost of renewable electricity generation,” the statement reads.

In addition to end-of-life issues, the funding round also aims to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar PV for new or established applications.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said solar PV panel recycling currently adds cost to the supply chain.

“Research and development can help find innovative solutions to reduce this cost, enabling sustainable and cost effective management of solar panels at the end of their life,” he said.

“More efficient and lower cost solar PV can underpin the growth of a renewable hydrogen industry, can drive the electrification of transport and industrial processes, and can reduce the costs of delivering secure and reliable renewable electricity.”

Expressions of interest are now open.

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ARENA to fund biogas to hydrogen plant

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has approved up to $9.41 million in funding for the construction and operation of a hydrogen production facility in Western Australia.

An ARENA media statement said renewable energy company Hazer are seeking to build a $15.8 million 100 tonne per annum facility.

The facility will use hydrogen production technology to convert biogas from sewage treatment into hydrogen and graphite.

“The Hazer Process is an innovative technology that converts bio-methane to renewable hydrogen and graphite using an iron ore catalyst, creating an alternate hydrogen pathway to the traditional approaches of steam methane reforming and electrolysis,” the statement reads.

“Hazer will sell the renewable hydrogen for industrial applications and is exploring markets for graphite including carbon black, activated carbon and battery anode applications.”

According to the statement, Hazer aims to take advantage of waste or low value biogas streams such as from wastewater treatment plants, landfill sites and other industrial locations to produce higher value hydrogen and graphite.

“Hazer has identified the proposed location for the project at the Woodman Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, owned by the Western Australian Water Corporation,” the statement reads.

“Hazer has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Western Australian Water Corporation for the supply of biogas, and to provide the project site for construction.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said Hazer’s project represents a new and innovative way to produce renewable hydrogen, which aligns with ARENA’s new investment priority focussed on accelerating hydrogen.

“Renewable hydrogen is typically produced by splitting water molecules using renewable electricity, however, Hazer’s process represents an alternative way to produce hydrogen using biogas sourced from wastewater treatment plants,” Mr Miller said.

“If successful, this project will offer opportunities to replicate the technology across other treatment plants and landfill sites across Australia.”

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Trial funded to turn sawmill waste into diesel and bitumen

Sawmill scraps and sawdust could soon be turned into renewable diesel and bitumen as a result of a $1.2 million feasibility study, funded by the Federal Government and Boral Limited.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has agreed to grant Boral with $500,000 towards the study, with Boral providing the remainder.

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The study will trial a mechanical catalytic conversion technology, developed by Spanish-based Global Ecofuel Solutions SL, along with initial design works for the full-scale plant, exploration of the regulatory challenges and development of the business case.

Boral will explore the technical and financial viability of establishing a biorefinery using this technology near its Herons Creek hardwood sawmill, near Port Macquarie, NSW.

If successful, the proposed biorefinery would cost around $50 million and could convert up to 50,000 tonnes of waste sawmill residue produces each year into transport grade diesel and renewable bitumen.

Sawmill residue, which includes sawdust, remnant woodchips, shavings and offcuts, is currently used for lower value uses such as landscaping and boiler fuel.

Boral consumes a large amount of diesel and bitumen, using around 100 million litres of diesel a year to operate its business in Australia. The company estimates the volume of timber residues should create around 16 million litres of diesel and 8000 tonnes of bitumen.

Boral Building Products Executive General Manager Wayne Manners said if the study was successful, the diesel and bitumen produced at the potential new biorefinery could eventually account for up to 15 per cent of Boral’s annual needs.

“The application of this technology has the potential to transform the way we use low value hardwood sawmill residues into a resource that could be highly valuable, not just to Boral, but to the industry more generally,” he said.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project further shows that big businesses are increasingly moving towards renewable energy solutions.

“If this ground-breaking technology is successful, we hope to see a transition to similar biorefineries by other companies which have a waste stream in forestry or agriculture,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The transport sector is a significant user of energy in Australia, with liquid fuels a key long-term energy source for heavy-vehicle road and air transport since they cannot readily be electrified.

“Bioenergy comprises a growing proportion of Australia’s energy mix, and this new technology could see residue from the production process be used to reduce Boral’s reliance on diesel and bitumen derived from fossil fuels,” he said.

Veolia signs 25 year deal to operate WA WtE facility

Veolia has signed a $450 million 25-year operations and maintenance service agreement on a large-scale waste to energy facility in Kwinana, WA, capable of producing 36 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 50,000 homes.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will commit up to $90 million towards towards the $688 million and will be able to process 400,000 tonnes of household, commercial and industrial residual waste per year.

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Operations and maintenance of the facility will commence in 2021. Veolia operates 61 thermal waste to energy facilities around the world.

Macquarie Capital and Phoenix Energy Australia are co-developing the Kwinana plant, with co-investment by the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF). Infrastructure company Acciona has been appointed to design and construct the facility. The project has been approved by the WA Environmental Protection Authority.

It is expected to produce cost-competitive base load power by processing household waste from local councils and contribute to grid stability in WA’s South West Interconnected System.

Technology that has been previously used in Europe will be implemented in the plant, which is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 85,000 cars off the road.

The plant will use the Keppel Seghers grate technology, which has seen use in more than 100 waste to energy plants across 18 countries. Metals recovered in the process are then able to be recycled, with the facility producing an ash byproduct that is commonly used as road base or for construction.

CEFC’s funding is part of a $400 million debt syndicate that includes SMBC, Investec, Siemens, IFM Investors and Metrics Credit Partners. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is contributing a further $23 million in grant funding.

Veolia Australia and New Zealand Managing Director and CEO Danny Conlon said the project is an exciting development for Veolia in Australia.

“Adding to Veolia’s existing infrastructure in NSW and QLD, where we generate enough electricity to power 35,000 homes per year from waste, the Kwinana Project is another example where we will extract value from waste materials, delivering a clean energy source,” Mr Conlon said.

At a time when Australian businesses and households are seeing energy shortages and rising costs, Veolia is proud to be working with innovative partners to help deliver new, environmentally sustainable energy from waste”.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project provides a renewable energy solution for reducing waste going to landfill.

“The use of combustion grate technology is well established in Europe and North America but has not yet been deployed in Australia,” Mr Miller said.

“More than 23 million tonnes of municipal solid waste is produced annually in Australia and this project could help to divert non-recyclable waste from landfill and recover energy in the process.”

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the landmark project was the CEFC’s largest investment in WA to date.

“Creating energy from waste is an exciting and practical way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, while also delivering cleaner low carbon electricity,” Mr Learmonth said.

“The average red lid wheelie bin contains enough waste to produce up to 14 per cent of a household’s weekly power needs. This investment is about harnessing that energy potential, while safely diverting waste from landfill.

“We are pleased to be working alongside Phoenix Energy Australia, Macquarie Capital and DIF in bringing this state-of-the art technology to Australia. We congratulate the Western Australian government and the participating councils in embracing this 21st century approach to waste management,” he said.

Macquarie Capital Executive Director Chris Voyce said the Kwinana plant is expected to employ around 800 workers, including apprentices, during its three-year construction phase, and some 60 operations staff on an ongoing basis.

“Macquarie Capital is pleased to be contributing to the supply of sustainable and secure renewable power to Australia’s overall energy mix,” Mr Voyce said.

“As an adviser to, investor in and developer of renewable energy projects around the world, we see waste-to-energy as an effective example of adaptive reuse: reducing the pressures on landfill by diverting it toward the generation of clean energy,” he said.

Pictured: Henry Anning

CEFC Energy from Waste lead Henry Anning said the CEFC is pleased to play a role in demonstrating the business case for large-scale waste to energy investments in Australia in the future.

“Australians produce almost three tonnes of waste per person per year. While the priority is always a strong focus on recycling and organic waste management, there is still a considerable amount of household waste from red-lidded bins ending up as landfill, where it produces a large amount of emissions,” Mr Anning said.

“Energy from waste investments such as the Kwinana plant are about creating new clean energy opportunities for Australia, while offering councils and households a practical and innovative way to manage waste. Just as importantly, they can significantly cut methane emissions produced by landfill.”

With the addition of the Kwinana facility, the CEFC has now made six large scale investments to reduce waste-related emissions.

 

Southern Oil Refining turning waste into oil

A new plant that aims to turn biosolids from waste water treatment sewage into renewable crude oil is being built in Gladstone, Queensland.

The Federal Government is providing Southern Oil Refining with up to $4 million in funding for the $11.8 million demonstration plant.

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Biosolids will be sources from waste water treatment plants in Gladstone as well as the project’s partner Melbourne Water Corporation’s Werribee facility.

The renewable crude oil will then be upgraded to renewable diesel and potentially jet fuel.

Southern Oil Refining’s existing Northern Oil Refining facility in Gladstone will be used for the project, which is currently being used for re-refining waste oils such as transmission and engine oils.

It will treat up to one million litres of biosolids a year using a thermochemical conversion process to produce a biocrude.

Minister for the Environment Josh Frydenberg said that bioenergy projects not only provide an alternative to the stockpiling of waste, but also have the potential to help with Australia’s fuel security.

“With Australia producing over 300,000 tonnes of biosolids through sewage treatment annually, it makes sense to look for options for commercialising its disposal,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Federal Member for Flynn Mr Ken O’Dowd said he is excited for Gladstone to be the home of world-class, state of the art technology.

“Using the skills and some of the world’s best R&D and scientists, there is no stopping this remarkable ‘new age’ company from achieving this huge benefit that was once thought to be a distant aspiration,” Mr O’Dowd said.

The project was funded though the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which also provided $2.4 million for Australia’s first biocrude and biofuel laboratory based at the same site.

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