Mt Piper goes ‘green’

Mt Piper power station could be home to an Australian-first method of energy generation but not everyone is convinced it is a good idea. Photo: FILELithgow could be home to an Australian-first form of energy at the Mt Piper Power Station if a newly-proposed project goes ahead in 2018.

The owner of Mt Piper, EnergyAustralia, isconducting afeasibility study into converting part of the plant to run on non-recyclable household materials, commonly referred to as “refuse-derived fuel”.

The proposal involves installing a purpose-built boiler at the Mt Piper power station, fuelled by materialssuch as discarded plastics, linen and non-recyclable paper, that would otherwise go to landfill, the company said.

If the companydecides togo ahead with the project, EnergyAustralia saidthe estimated $60 million project would have capacity to generate around 13 megawatts of “cleaner and reliable, base-load energy.”

It would also generate 120 jobs during the construction stage and 15 ongoing operational places.

Lithgow mayor Stephen Lesslie said he would welcome the development if it was given the green light.

“It has a number of advantages. It has the potential to extend the life of the coal used at Mt Piper or it could increase the base-load of power produced at the plant,” the mayor said.

“It would also present a big saving in landfill so a project that cleans up the environment and provides extra jobs for Lithgow is very welcome.”

However the Lithgow Environmental Group (LEG) is concerned the number of jobs doesn’t make up for the negatives.

“Burning plastic is always something you were told not to do. Is this just going to lead to further pollution when Lithgow is already exceeding discharge limits?,” LEG vice president Chris Jonkers said.

“We worry it will lead to Lithgow becoming a dumping ground for Sydney’s unwanted rubbish with no benefit for the town.

“I hope Lithgow scrutinises the proposalcarefully, especially the collateral impacts.”

A decision on the plan wouldbe made in 2018, with first electricity production scheduled for 2019.

EnergyAustralia executive Mark Collette said the technology was often used to generate electricity for homes in the United States and Europe, but the Mt Piper project would be the first of its kind in Australia.

“This kind of energy recovery project has the potential to generate more electricity at the Mount Piper power station while using the same amount of coal,” he said.

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