Rubbish-fuelled power plant gets environmental approval
Rubbish-fuelled power plant gets environmental approval

Household rubbish could soon be burnt to generate Perth’s electricity after the State’s environmental regulator waved through plans for the city’s first waste-to-energy plant.

New Energy Corporation wants to take up to 225,000 tonnes of waste – or about 13 per cent of material that would otherwise be sent to the tip – to produce 18.5MW of electricity.

About 2.5MW of that would be needed to power the plant, meaning the remaining 16MW would be exported into the grid.
This would be enough to power 23,000 homes a year.

In a breakthrough for the Perth-based company, the Environmental Protection Authority today gave the project the green light subject to certain conditions.

EPA chairman Paul Vogel said provided there were tight controls on the type of waste it burnt he was satisfied the plant could operate within strict emissions guidelines.

Citing a study by the EPA and the Waste Authority last year into waste-to-energy technology, Dr Vogel said he was satisfied “state-of-the-art” projects could be environmentally acceptable.

“The EPA and Waste Authority’s advice provided to the Minister for Environment last year clearly outlines that in assessing any waste to energy proposal, proponents must demonstrate that the technology components have a track record in waste treatment and are capable of meeting best practice in emissions standards,” Dr Vogel said.

Under New Energy’s plans, the $160 million East Rockingham plant would slowly burn waste in a low-oxygen chamber before harvesting the gas generated in this process.

The gas would be burnt to produce steam, which could in turn be used to generate electricity.

Backing by the EPA’s for New Energy’s Rockingham proposal comes after the company’s more-advanced plans for a similar plant in Port Hedland were endorsed by the watchdog last year.

However, the Conservation Council of WA took a dim view of the move, saying there was no requirement from the EPA for New Energy to separate key recyclable materials.

These included products such as plastics, which council director Piers Verstegen noted would produce the most energy when burnt.

“I have concerns about the veracity of claims… that (New Energy) will separate recyclables and maximise the recovery of recyclables and I’m concerned the EPA has not put any conditions on them to require them to do it,” Mr Verstegen said.

Mr Verstegen said he would be opposed to any project that essentially burnt materials that would have a higher value if recycled.

The West Australian

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