Growing green power on the farm: green energy projects can be excellent job generators in rural Australia, and help farmers reverse the decline of our natural heritage. But to make it happen, a jump-start is needed from governments.
BIOMASS ENERGY or 'bioenergy' is a mixed bag: everything from sugar cane waste, to diesel pressed from canola, to burning native forestry residues for power. So what makes the grade for sustainable bioenergy?
With the Myer Foundation's help, and together with the Dim Venture Agroforestry ag·ro·for·est·ry
A system of land use in which harvestable trees or shrubs are grown among or around crops or on pastureland, as a means of preserving or enhancing the productivity of the land. Program (JVAP JVAP Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program
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JVAP Joint Vulnerability Assessment Process ), ACF (Advanced Communications Function) An earlier official product line name for IBM SNA programs, such as VTAM (ACF/VTAM) and NCP (ACF/NCP).
ACF - Advanced Communications Function recently hired consultants URS URS Yours
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URS Undergraduate Research Scholars Australia to figure out what can be done to ensure bioenergy is good for the land, good for the climate and good for local economies. The new report, Fuelling Landscape Repair, concludes that farming native mallee eucalypts in southern Australia's wheat-sheep belt is the most attractive option--financially and environmentally.
Mallee farming can be cost-competitive alongside wheat and sheep, and the cost of electricity from mallee biomass is on par with conventional power options when the trees' capacity for storing (or 'sequestering') carbon is mixed into the equation. Continuously grown and re-grown, the trees soak up as much carbon as is emitted in their processing for electricity and other products, like activated charcoal Charcoal, Activated Definition
Activated charcoal is a fine black odorless and tasteless powder made from wood or other materials that have been exposed to very high temperatures in an airless environment. and eucalyptus oil. Hence, tree-cropping can help to put the brakes on climate change and makes a good green power option.
Unlike tall timber plantations, mallees are adapted to low-rainfall areas and can be harvested every three or four years. When grown in the right spots and on the right scale, mallees keep the watertable in check, making the difference between a salty future and the survival of our precious wetlands, creeks and wildlife.
To date, around 900 properties east of Perth have put in mallee crops, and --with state and federal assistance--a pilot processing facility is near completion in the regional centre of Narrogin. These sorts of compact facilities can boost rural communities' self-reliance and raise their" confidence in the future, attracting new people to the region, and reducing the risks and costs of relying on a centralised power supply.
Each tree-processing facility generates enough power for around 1000 homes, permanently employs scores of people, and offers farmers another income--not to mention that putting the brakes on salinity and climate change today saves us all the cost of environmental repair down the track.
Governments have thrown in some cash to help out, so what's holding the fledgling industry up? For starters, it isn't easy for a new venture to hit the ground running on an uneven playing field: Government subsidies to coal, gas and oil make it hard for 'renewables' to compete. Research dollars are needed to clear the path of technical hurdles, and energy planning needs to be tied into catchment management to capture the full environmental benefits from bioenergy.
Until Australia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, the mallee industry can't plug into emerging global carbon markets or mechanisms that would enable new Australian-made technologies to be exported overseas. Moreover, the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (or MRET MRET Molecular Resonance Effect Technology
MRET Mandatory Renewable Energy Target
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MRET Master Rapid Eye Technician ) is too low (at a nominal 2%) to really give sustainable bioenergy a boost.
The moral of this tale is clear: Rural communities can reap the rewards of environmental innovation, but governments need to bring it all together to really repair our country and give Australians a future on the land.
Fuelling Landscape Repair can be found on ACF's website at
Other websites of interest:
Joint Venture Agroforestry Program
CRC (Cyclical Redundancy Checking) An error checking technique used to ensure the accuracy of transmitting digital data. The transmitted messages are divided into predetermined lengths which, used as dividends, are divided by a fixed divisor. for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity
Oil Mallee Information Page
Corey Watts is ACF's Sustainable Rural Landscapes Campaigner.