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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

3 June 2004

$1.6 million boost for innovative bio-energy plant in regional WA

An innovative Integrated Wood Processing (IWP) demonstration plant being developed by Western Power Corporation at Narrogin, in the Western Australian wheatbelt, can now be completed, thanks to a funding boost from the Australian Government.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, welcomed the re-commencement of work on the project while announcing an additional $1.6 million funding from the Australian Government's Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program.

"This additional funding brings the total Australian Government investment in this project to more than $3.7 million, including $2.6 million in grants from the Environment portfolio," Dr Kemp said.

Additional Australian Government funding was recently provided by the Department of Transport and Regional Services through a Regional Partnerships grant.

The demonstration plant will process plantation mallee trees to produce renewable electricity, as well as activated carbon and eucalyptus oil for commercial purposes. The project will encourage mallee tree planting in the region, reduce dryland salinity, as well as enhance regional development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Possibly the greatest benefits of creating a market for mallees will be on the Western Australian wheatbelt's landscape. Mallee plantations on farms lower the water table and help the fight against dryland salinity as well as enhance biodiversity in the agricultural landscape and provide an alternative source of income for farmers," Dr Kemp said.

At full production, the plant will use biomass from two million trees to produce 7.5 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity - sufficient to power about 1000 homes.

"The renewable electricity production alone will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 7300 tonnes per year while the mallee plantations will absorb an extra 4300 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. And, the beauty of using mallees is that, once harvested, they quickly sprout again - a truly renewable resource," Dr Kemp said.

"This bio-energy demonstration plant involves cutting edge renewable energy technology and is an example of how local innovation, supported by the Australian Government, can have global benefits. Successful commercialisation of this technology could enable replication throughout Australia, especially in areas affected by salinity.

"Australia is at the forefront of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the Australian Government investing more than $1 billion in greenhouse gas abatement measures, including more than $300 million to encourage the use and development of renewable energy technologies."


Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program

Accelerating the development and commercialisation of renewable energy technologies is a key element of the Government's overall renewable energy strategy. To support this objective, the Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program (RECP) was launched in 1999. RECP is a competitive grants program that provides support for strategically important renewable energy technology initiatives that have strong commercial potential. The projects offered funding were selected on the basis of the following criteria:

The response of industry to the program has been overwhelming with more than 200 applications received over the six funding rounds. Some 50 projects have been offered grants for many different forms of renewable energy, including photovoltaics, enabling technologies, wind, wave and biomass energy.

Individual grants are usually between $100,000 and $1 million and grantees fund at least 50% of the project costs from their own sources. Many of the projects being supported offer benefits other than greenhouse gas abatement, such as regional development, salinity amelioration, waste reduction and export potential.

The program also incorporates a $6 million Industry Development component to assist the development of a sustainable internationally competitive renewable energy industry in Australia. Currently funded projects include assessment of renewable energy resources, development of standards for equipment, and training and accreditation of designers and installers of renewable energy systems.

Integrated Wood Processing Demonstration Plant

Western Power will resume work on the Integrated Wood Processing (IWP) demonstration plant at Narrogin, in the Western Australian wheatbelt following the Australian Government announcement of additional funding for the project.

The IWP plant is the first of its type to be built and is at the cutting edge of renewable energy technology.

Using locally planted mallee trees, the IWP plant will generate enough renewable energy to power 1000 homes as well as produce eucalyptus oil and activated carbon - which can be used for other commercial purposes.

The IWP plant uses modern fluidised bed technology developed by CSIRO to convert the wood into charcoal and then to 'activate' the charcoal to convert it to activated carbon. Activated carbon is used in air and liquid purification. Oil will be distilled from the leaves, and the spent leaves will be gasified to produce fuel for the boiler.

Enecon Pty Ltd, which holds the rights to commercialise the CSIRO technology, is working with Western Power on the design, construction and operation of the plant. The Oil Mallee Company of Australia Pty Ltd will supply mallee biomass and new eucalyptus oil distillation technology.

Australian Government funding for the IWP project comprises:

Commonwealth of Australia