Unitywater and ARENA investigate the hidden power of waste in an Australian first

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Unitywater is developing a waste-to-energy feasibility study that could revolutionise the way we think about sewage.

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Unitywater is developing a waste-to-energy feasibility study that could revolutionise the way we think about sewage with support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

ARENA is providing $296,000 funding for Unitywater to assess the commercial viability of converting its Kawana sewage treatment facility on the Sunshine Coast to produce biogas and electricity from various waste sources. Unitywater is also contributing funding to the study.

“I believe we are at a crucial time in the evolution of Unitywater where we are seeking to embrace smarter and more sustainable power generation options into the future,” Unitywater CEO George Theo said.

“This is a priority for Unitywater because energy is one of our biggest costs and at the same time we want to reduce the impact we have on the environment. As our region grows, the demands on our network will increase, so if we are to make a difference in reducing carbon emissions, we need to change how we operate.

“The exciting thing about this feasibility study is its potential to deliver practical benefits and learning, not only for Unitywater but the water industry as a whole.

“We will thoroughly investigate a concept that is scale-able and one which could be adopted by other water utilities. We are pleased to be working together with ARENA to share this knowledge.”

The study is unique in that it will investigate several waste streams, including captured and treated sewage and other wastes such as fats, oils and greases from industry and businesses like restaurants and cafes.

“ARENA is working to accelerate the shift to renewables in Australia. We think there is huge potential to tap into these different waste sources to produce more sustainable, cleaner energy,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said.

“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia produces around 40 million tonnes of waste annually and more than half of this is organic. The majority is unexploited, ending up in the sewer or sent to landfill.

“This study will uncover options for sewage treatment plants around Australia, particularly in regional areas, to turn this unused waste into electricity.”

Organic waste is a resource with both energy and nutrient value. Co-digestion is emerging as an answer to the management of organics and an attractive alternative to landfill.

Co-digestion is a process where organic wastes break down and produce methane-rich biogas, which can then be used to generate power.

Unitywater is supportive of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and believes that a well-managed waste-to-energy cycle that could have regional benefits will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, a greater potential for energy self-sufficiency and flow-on savings for customers.

The study is scheduled for completion by mid-2017.

About Unitywater
Unitywater provides essential water supply and sewerage services to Moreton Bay, Noosa and Sunshine Coast residential and business customers. Unitywater operates and maintains $3.1 billion of assets across a service area that spans 5223 square kilometres.
We began operations on 1 July 2010 and were established by the Queensland Government, under the South-East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail) Act 2009, as part of the Queensland Government water reform program.

About ARENA

ARENA was established by the Australian Government to make renewable energy technologies more affordable and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia. Through the provision of funding coupled with deep commercial and technical expertise, ARENA provides the support needed to accelerate the development of promising new solutions towards commercialisation. ARENA invests in renewable energy projects across the innovation chain and is committed to sharing knowledge and lessons learned from its portfolio of projects and information about renewable energy. ARENA always looks for at least matched funding from the projects it supports and to date has committed $1.1 billion in funding to more than 270 projects. For more information, visit www.arena.gov.au.

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