Creating Energy from Macadamia Nuts

What do you do with 5,000 tonnes of Macadamia Nut shells? - Create electricity of course! AGL is helping to create biomass fuel from macadamia nut shells, as part of its effort to invest in sustainable energy sources.

Melbourne, Australia ( Earthytoys ) December 30, 2008 -Australia's largest energy retailer, AGL, is putting its energy into innovative and sustainable renewable energy projects, in an effort to minimising the effects of climate change.

Included in its suite of 29 renewable energy assets that it owns or operates, is Suncoast Gold Macadamias in Gympie, Southeast Queensland, which is Australia's first waste-to-energy (biomass) renewable cogeneration project. 'Cogeneration' is generation of both electricity and useful heat that can be used onsite for good use.

What is Biomass?
Biomass is all matter that can be used as fuel for industrial production. It can also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel.

How is Biomass energy created?
Biomass can be thought of as storage of solar energy in chemical form. It can be combusted to generate heat and then subsequently converted into other forms of energy.

How do we create energy from Macadamias?
Creating energy from a waste product like the macadamia nut shells involves the following process:
Nut shells are burnt in a fire boiler, which creates steam
Some of the steam is used to dry the macadamia nuts
The majority of the steam is used to drive a turbine to generate clean, renewable electricity
About 40% of the electricity is sent to the national power grid as GreenPower
About 60% goes to the customer.

What this means for the environment
The macadamia plant produces enough energy from the macadamia nut shells to power the company's entire manufacturing and processing activity, as well as about 250 Queensland homes.

This innovative waste-to-energy project cuts Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by around 2,500 tonnes per annum - equivalent to taking about 650 cars off the road each year. It has also solved the problem of what to do with the 5,000 tonnes of macadamia shells, enough to fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools, that Suncoast Gold Macadamias processes each year.

Suncoast Gold, which exports Australia's largest native agricultural crop to more than 20 countries including Japan, Europe and the US, has had its efficiency significantly boosted by the provision of electricity, heat and steam. It has also enhanced its green credentials in the European and Asian markets where consumers are extremely environmentally aware.

By 2010, more than 150 growers throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales are expected to supply Suncoast Gold with about 10,000 tonnes of macadamia nuts each year, doubling the Gympie facility's output.

AGL's Asset Manager Neil Cooke says the innovative plant has achieved several firsts. It's the first of its kind in the world," he said. "It also has the largest macadamia shell silo (400 tonne capacity, 18 metres high and 10 metres in diameter) in the world and the boiler is showing that it is possible to achieve consistent performance from a renewable energy plant operated on shells."

AGL is one of Australia's leading integrated energy companies and the only Australian energy producer with a full suite of renewable generation, providing natural gas and electricity to over 3.2 million customers more than six million Australians.

Other innovative renewable energy assets AGL owns or operates include the ISIS Central Sugar Mill facility in Childers, Queensland, which is AGL's first renewable cogeneration project to produce energy from sugar cane by-product (bagasse).

Giselle Pethard
AGL Energy Limited
03 8633 6115


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