New waste-to-energy plant opened

Biogas tanks at the new Richgro facility.        d450989
Biogas tanks at the new Richgro facility.        d450989

Richgro’s $8 million anaerobic digestion plant will divert up to 150 tonnes of waste from landfills each day and generate enough power to power 1800 homes.

Richgro managing director Geoff Richards said the plant worked much like the stomach of a cow by breaking down waste into products that can be recycled.

That includes energy to operate the plant itself, garden products and electricity which can be fed back to the grid.

“We recycle solid and liquid waste from nearby breweries, chicken farms, supermarkets and other food suppliers, right down to the aluminium cans from out-of-date or damaged beverages,” Mr Richards said. “Everything gets recycled which is a win-win situation for everyone.

“We use the energy created to fully power the plant and we use the digestate by-product, which is packed with living micro-organisms and nutrients, in our range of Richgro garden products.”

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the opening of the plant was a major milestone for an emerging sector and said the technology could be used elsewhere.

“The anaerobic digestion process also has a possible future use in the creation of renewable vehicle fuel,” he said.

“Methane produced during the conversion can potentially be purified and compressed to produce compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas.”

$500,000 from the WA State Government, $1.1 million from the Federal Government and a $2 million loan from Clean Energy Finance Corporation helped finance the plant.

Energy Minister Mike Nahan said the project was one of a number of clean and innovative energy solutions supported by the Government.

On Thursday he announced five solar-powered energy systems are being developed in the wake of the Esperance bushfires in November.

It followed a busy period of activity for sustainable energy groups, with Perth-based volunteer group Sustainable Energy Now using a new simulation package to demonstrate the installation of wind and solar systems would cost no more than installing new coal powered generators.