Former CSIRO team leader Barney Foran gave a presentation to the Benalla Sustainable Future Group recently and spoke about different energy sources, including biomass energy.By David Dore
Benalla Sustainable Future Group hosted a presentation by one of Australia’s big thinkers in August, Barney Foran, who gave a talk entitled Benalla Energy Transition Options: Regional enterprise, low carbon energy security.
Mr Foran, a former CSIRO team leader and now visiting fellow at Charles Sturt University, presented the 40 people present with data on our community’s energy use, particularly looking at electricity and natural gas.
Some alternative energy sources are being rapidly adopted, such as domestic photovoltaic panels — however these will only contribute a part of Benalla’s future energy solution.
Another option that will be crucial for the future will be ‘biomass energy’, primarily derived from new tree plantings, but with contributions from garbage disposal.
Barney presented a scenario where biomass energy is contributing almost half of our energy needs in the future. A single site could produce energy in the form of electricity and two fuels for transport — biomethanol and DME, a fuel suitable for diesel motors.
The technology to make Benalla self-sustaining in its energy use is already available. What would be required to achieve this is several thousand hectares of new forest plantings, distributed over farms in such a way as to improve habitat and summer shelter for animals. Investment in creating a gas turbine plant would also be required.
In addition to the large community presence, Benalla Sustainable Future Group was encouraged by the presence of three councillors from Benalla Rural City, the CEO of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, as well as representatives from DSE and local industry.
At the conclusion of the evening John Lloyd, president of Benalla Sustainable Future Group, thanked Barney Foran for the enormous amount of work he had gone to in developing a specific set of numbers on energy demand and future energy supply for Benalla.
For thousands of years communities have planned and managed their own energy needs. It is only in the last 100 years or so that this work has been done for us by state governments. Maybe it’s time for us to start thinking about it again?
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