A new high-tech abattoir is to be built in Gladstone, Queensland, has joined the industrial shift to renewable energy, announcing plans for the plant to be partly powered by a 78MW solar farm, with a 33MW solar-powered hydrogen facility to service its boiler.
Asia Pacific Agri-Corp says it plans to spend $308 million on the project, which like the proposed Nectar Farms greenhouse in Victoria, and the expansion of zinc refiner Sun Metals in north Queensland, will only go head because of the certainty of low prices delivered by solar power.
“We looked at the energy use of the abattoir and with the way that power prices go, it left the business vulnerable to price spikes in electricity costs,” APAC managing director Daniel Daly told the local ABC News service.
“We have our own 78MW solar farm on the site, so we’re able to do behind the metre or through-the-fence power deals which keeps our costs controlled for the processing.
“There was also other costs associated with waste water and removal of waste water would be considerable … (so) we (will ) combine the surplus of power from the solar with the waste water into an onsite hydrogen plant.”
The solar will contribute around one third of the proposed abattoir’s power needs, although it is not clear exactly what role the hydrogen plant will play – whether it will be used as back-up, a big battery, or directly power the boiler.
The decision by APAC to embrace solar and solar-fuelled hydrogen is yet another example of how big Australian businesses are turning to wind and solar, not just because it is cheap, but also because it enables the business to lock in prices for decades.
Nectar Farms’ new glasshouse – to be Australia’s largest – will be powered by the 190MW Bulgana wind farm and the accompanying 20MW/34MWh Tesla battery. Sun Metals says its newly opened 116MW solar farm will underpin a $300 million expansion of the Townsville refinery.
Sanjeev Gupta is betting that he can turn around the fortunes of the Whyalla steelworks and associated businesses in NSW and Victoria by turning to solar and storage to underpin its power needs.
Cameron Dick, the Queensland minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, said the project – which would deliver 308 construction and 335 operational jobs, will be the first of its kind in Australia.
“Once fully operational this cutting-edge facility will be capable of processing 2,400 head of cattle per day ready to cater for growing demand for Australian beef,” Dick said in a statement.
“The development approval also provides for 95 hectares of solar panels, capable of generating 78 MW of electricity or almost one third of the sites total electricity needs. A further energy efficiency measure includes the development of an on-site 33MW hydrogen plant to service the abattoir’s boiler.”
Asia Pacific Agri-Corp will next undertake detailed design prior to starting construction, which is expected to begin in May, 2019, and be completed by 2021.
Meanwhile, a not-so-exciting hydrogen and ammonia project was also announced by Dick on Friday, this time a $1 billion project that seeks to create hydrogen and ammonia from emissions-intensive coal gasification.
The gasification of coal has been criticised as an energy source for its intense emissions. This project proposed to convert 1.5 million tonnes of coal a year to produce up to 330,000 tonnes of ammonia, six to eight petajoules of synthetic natural gas per annum and up to 96MW of electrical power generated from waste gas and heat.
It is expected to create 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. The proposals says this CO2 could be captured and sequestered, or even sold, but does not explain how, where, or to who.
A $500 million hydrogen pilot plant is also planned for Victoria to create just three tonnes of hydrogen using brown coal as the energy source. Neither project is expected to translate into a long-lasting investment or industry.
The proposal by Brisbane-based is apparently the first time that the proposed coal gasification technology will be used to produce ammonia in Queensland,” Dick said.
“The project also proposes to use coal sourced from existing regional mines located close to Gladstone, further strengthening regional employment and job security.”