$476,000 grant to fast-track Australia’s first straw- fuelled power plant

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Development of Australia’s first straw-fuelled power plant is a step closer with the Yorke Biomass Energy project receiving a $476,000 funding grant from the South Australian Government.

The grant, which forms part of the State Government’s Renewable Technology Fund, will be used to finance the feasibility assessment of Yorke Biomass Energy’s demonstration project at Ardrossan on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

The demonstration project will produce 15MW of power and showcase how a straw-burning generator can provide reliable 24/7 renewable power, while also delivering new jobs, new incomes for farmers and lower power prices.

Once the demonstration project is complete, Yorke Biomass Energy plans to replicate the project across South Australia in remote and off-grid locations, particularly where crop farming and mining projects are located. In fact, several other potential locations have already been identified, primarily on the state’s Eyre Peninsula, to produce up to 150MW of base load power.

Yorke Biomass Energy Chairman Terry Kallis says the State Government funding grant is a major boost for the continued development of straw-fuelled power.

“This funding grant will enable us to take some big steps forward with our demonstration project and proceed through to financial close during the second half of 2018,” said Mr Kallis.

“It’s also a fantastic vote of confidence in the project by the South Australian Government, which continues to look at innovative new ways to provide cheaper, greener and more reliable energy in South Australia.”

The demonstration project will be located near the Ardrossan West substation and be based on existing plants operated by global infrastructure company Acciona, which is Yorke Biomass Energy’s exclusive contractor for engineering, procurement and construction.

Approximately 90,000 tonnes of straw per annum is expected to be required from local farms to operate the Ardrossan plant, which will create up to 40 long-term jobs through the plant’s operation, as well as through the ongoing collection and transportation of straw.

Yorke Biomass Energy involves a novel cooperative-style business model in which local biomass suppliers own and operate a company called Yorke Biomass Supply, which has an exclusive contract with Yorke Biomass Energy for the supply of suitable biomass.

Importantly, biomass energy has the highest per MW employment creation of any form of renewable energy, so the potential for new jobs in regional South Australia is significant given the planned pipeline of projects. For example, ongoing jobs created by a 15MW biomass project is equal to a 500MW wind farm project.

“In addition to the potential 150MW of projects in SA, we have identified the possibility for a further 450MW in other states including Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia,” said Mr Kallis.

“We believe straw-fuelled power generation can play an important role in Australia’s energy mix. It can help reduce the cost of electricity and create new economic benefits to local rural communities, as well as helping resolve issues between mining and agricultural pursuits in a win- win manner.

“There are also significant environmental benefits on offer, such as improvements to sustainable local farming in terms of soil health, crop rotation and weed management, in addition to reduced greenhouse gases and improved energy security.”

Yorke Biomass Energy is aiming for the Ardrossan power plant to be operational in early 2020.


  • Joe

    Biomass…Tick… but Biogas…?….it is low hanging fruit.

  • Alan Benn

    It will be interesting to see the results of the feasibility study. Wonder what the price per kWh will come out at ? What does 90,000tons of straw cost and how much energy would it make – at only 30-40% conversion I presume? How much fuel used to transport it ? More jobs sounds good for workers but will increase per unit energy cost. Wonder how it improves soil health ? I thought leaving stubble etc on the soil improved soil health ? The more you take away the more you have to put back in ?

  • It seems odd that technologies can’t be combined.
    For instance, South Australia’s 150 MW concentrated solar thermal power station has capital expenditure requirements for thermal storage. This requires extra heliostats devoted to sending thermal energy to storage instead of generating electricity.

    Straw fuel could be used in place of thermal storage, reducing the capital expenditure of the concentrated solar thermal power station.

    Another option for synergy of these two projects is perhaps less obvious but potentially far better. Concentrated solar thermal energy can be used to turn the straw into synthesis gas. This saves about 30 percent of the energy in the straw that is ‘wasted’ if the straw is burned without first being converted to gas. The synthesis gas produced:
    1/ Avoids the cost of the thermal energy storage needed by the concentrated solar thermal power station. This is because the solar thermal energy is stored in the form of synthesis gas.
    2/ Allows the energy in both the straw and the concentrated solar thermal energy to be used in a combined cycle gas turbine power station. This raises the conversion efficiency to 60 percent – far above the efficiency that either power plant can achieve now. (I’m assuming they both plan to use steam turbine generators at efficiencies between 20 percent and 40 percent.)

  • Ian

    What is done with the straw now? Is it burnt in the field or is it feed for animals or mulch for maintaining soil quality?

    Assuming this is a better solution to straw waste than what is currently practiced, then why go for “baseload” . SA needs baseload like it needs a coalition government. Dispatchability is the issue. Generating equipment that is complimentary with wind and solar ie to generate electricity when these resources are not operating.

  • Hettie

    Surely burning straw will produce significant CO2 emissions?
    Better to let it lie on the soil to feed it, insulate it, protect it from wind erosion, and reduce moisture loss.
    Not happy.

    • BushAxe

      CO² is still released when plant matter breaks down..

  • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe

    This reminds me of UK wood burners which are not CO2 friendly since they burn trees that are not replanted at the rate of burning. Whats the realistic CO2 story here?

  • Combining this technology with concentrated solar thermal power generation may improve the cost and performance of both of these technologies. See “Combinations of renewable energy projects – better together” for instance: