Peak Services is in discussion with a cluster of councils to get a Queensland ‘waste-to-energy’ pilot program off the ground.
The initiative would involve diverting part of the regional waste stream for combustion to generate electricity, Peak Services consulting and technical advisory service chief executive officer Jari Ihalainen said.
“Some years ago we actually looked at a whole strategy for Queensland, where councils could look at developing these potentially on a regional basis or consolidating their waste streams to develop waste-to-energy projects,” he said.
“Now (the Queensland Government) are about to introduce a waste levy, that is likely to incentivise councils to look at alternatives for their waste stream so they are not just sending it all to landfill.
“Waste-to-energy is obviously a viable option to reduce some of the landfill.”
Mr Ihalainen would not name the councils involved in the proposed pilot at this stage, but said it would involve a lead council and two others.
Many waste-to-electricity incineration plants are in operation overseas, while the planned $400 million Kwinana waste to energy facility in Perth is hoped to divert up to 50 per cent of the residential (post-recycling) rubbish collection in the metro area away from landfill sites.
Project proponent Phoenix Energy says it has signed 20-year waste supply agreements with eight Local Government Authorities to feed the 32MW plant, which is designed to receive and process up to 400,000 tonnes of residual waste per annum.
Mr Ihalainen said high-calorific waste, including plastics and organic matter, could be used to feed waste-to-energy plants.
“The challenge is often you need to look at these on a regional basis because you need enough feedstock to make it worthwhile,” he said.
“At the moment we are doing the analysis on the waste streams. That will then guide us on the types of technology, the types of solutions.
“So we may not be able to cover all waste streams in all areas, but by doing the analysis we can see how much is there and how big the plant would be.”
Mr Ihalainen said some Queensland councils already extracted methane from their landfill sites to generate electricity.
However this was dealing with a by-product from landfill sites rather than dealing with waste before it reached landfill, as would be the case in a waste-to-energy operation.
Peak Services has an in-house energy team which will look at the feasibility of waste-to-energy options, identify appropriate technology and assist in the tender process for the private sector to bid on development.
“It could be that the councils take an investment stake in the projects – that’s one of the options we are looking at, or it could be that a private sector firm develops some of these waste-to-energy projects and has arrangements with local councils in terms of diverting some of their waste streams from landfill,” Mr Ihalainen said.
“It’s a bit of a case of ‘watch this space’ because we are at a very early stage, but with a bit of luck we’re going to really push forward with this in the next few weeks. In terms of a timeline, it might be six months before we come up with the right strategy as a regional solution.”