Biogas option explored

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Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

Capes organisations are investigating the possibility of biogas as an alternative energy source and waste management tactic for farmers faced with rising power costs.

Biogas is produced through harnessing the methane and carbon dioxide that come from the breakdown of organic matter, such as animal effluent, to create energy.

While the technology has been adopted in dairy farms overseas and in some piggeries in Australia, it is virtually unheard of in WA dairy farms.

However, as dairy effluent run-off into vital catchments has risen alongside power costs, Geocatch, Lower Blackwood Landcare and Augusta Margaret River Clean Community Energy have started discussing the feasibility of biogas for local farms.

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AMRCCE has been investigating the possibility of a local renewable energy facility for wind and solar power, but is also considering biogas to fill gaps left by these energy sources, while removing nutrient run-off to the Hardy Inlet.

Renewable energy consultant and AMRCCE committee member Steve McGill said biogas presented a “great opportunity” for farmers.

“The concept of biogas is a nice solution ... to closing the loop of waste from dairy farmers and repurposing it into a more useful source of energy,” he said.

“It could be a game changer for an area that hasn’t really started, that is, combining all these energy sources — solar, wind and biogas — into some kind of storage to provide a clean and renewable energy supply on a 24-hour basis.”

Geocatch dairy and fertiliser project co-ordinator Breanne Brown said the organisation was meeting with AMRCCE to “hear about the feasibility of biogas”, which could be part of their work in supporting farmers and “taking a fresh look at effluent management, thinking through its capture, storage and re-use”.

“We have also partnered with Western Dairy system designers who are currently developing effluent management plans ... with 10 farmers involved,” she said.

“I see biogas generation could be another benefit for farmers who have a good effluent management system in place, but getting the basics sorted out is a necessary first step.” The greatest challenges to introducing biogas are the high capital cost and difficulty in collecting and storing effluent from grazing cattle.

Scott River dairy farmer Ross Woodhouse said concentrating cows would bring both “complications and efficiencies”.

“If we had a concentrated feed lock situation, a lot more methane would be produced and would give you the concentrated product, but right now we’ve got grazing-based farming and that makes it harder,” he said.

“It (biogas) re-uses a waste product that’s been harmful to our inlets, converts it to something useable and addresses rising power costs. It’s something we should continue looking into for sure.”

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