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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

29 June 2001

$1MILLION COMMONWEALTH GRANT HELPS TURN WEEDS INTO POWER


The Commonwealth Government has awarded $1 million to the Northern Territory Power and Water Authority for a pilot electricity plant, which will run on weed power.

Announcing the grant today, Environment Minister Robert Hill said the project was a major step forward in helping to reduce Australia's noxious weed problem.

The new 350 kilowatt pilot power plant will be built on the Adelaide River flood plain, near the road to Kakadu National Park, using Mimosa Pigra as a source of fuel. The prickly tree - introduced from Latin America - grows up to six metres tall and renders otherwise productive agricultural land useless.

"Mimosa Pigra is a major threat to the Territory's ecosystem and infests more than 80,000 hectares of native vegetation," Senator Hill said.

This innovative $3.3 million project will cut Mimosa Pigra infestations in the Northern Territory while also reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. The new power plant is likely to save about 24,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions over the next ten years by integrating briquetting, gasification and power generation technologies.

"This project is an excellent demonstration of the environmental synergies possible between renewable energy production and management of noxious plants," Senator Hill said.

"The technology also has the potential to be applied to other noxious plants throughout central Australia, including a type of acacia, which is taking over pastoral land in Western Queensland.

The Northern Territory Power and Water Authority estimates that there are between 20 to 30 tonnes of weed per hectare available for harvesting.

In Australia, weeds cost the community approximately $3.3 billion dollars each year in control costs alone. In the Northern Territory, the figure is about $13 million in lost pastoral production and control costs.

The Northern Territory project has been funded under round five of the Commonwealth's Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program (RECP). The $55 million RECP grants program fosters the growth of Australia's renewable energy industry. So far, over 40 projects have been offered funding under the program. The RECP grants are run through the Australian Greenhouse Office, the Commonwealth's lead agency on greenhouse matters.

Friday, June 29, 2001

Media Contact: Belinda Huppatz 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia