Potentially groundbreaking research is sparking in Tamworth, with a new Bioenergy project looking at how trees can help sustain our energy needs and give farmers a welcome supplementary income.
Over 6000 plants are now taking root at the Tamworth Agriculture Institute as part of the $4 million Biomass for Bioenergy project, funded under the NSW Primary Industries Climate Change Research Strategy.
Touted as a way farmers can diversify their crop in marginalised farm land, thousands of long-term local jobs may blossom in the area right across the supply chain, from growing, harvesting, transporting and processing.
Now that the region has received some much-needed rain, it’s great to see this project get underway at Tamworth.
Dr Fabiano Ximenes
Lending his green thumb to the project is NSW Department of Primary Industries Research Officer Dr Fabiano Ximenes, who says they are investigating opportunities to increase the amount of sustainable biomass use in NSW, with a focus on electricity generation.
“Now that the region has received some much-needed rain, it’s great to see this project get underway at Tamworth,” Dr Ximenes said.
“Our original intention was to plant last spring, but we had an exceptionally dry year. Then the bushfires, then the storms, so it was too dry then too wet, but now it’s perfect conditions, the soil is in great shape with right moisture profile.”
From his perspective, their research will bring great opportunities for farmers and energy users.
It will give farmers another tool in their belt to use land on their properties in a way that adds to their income and to improve nitrogen levels in the soil to use for traditional crops after two or three seasons.
The project will also identify available and potential feedstocks for bioenergy generation at varying scales, with an understanding of the economic viability and social constraints.
“In terms of Bioenergy applications, it could replace coal emissions and provide heat for hospitals. We are not prescribing the main use, but aim is to determine what will grow best in NSW, and then let local markets dictate what’s best for them.”
“If you compare wind and solar, there are many more long term job opportunities with Biomass, which is perfect for regional NSW.”
NSW DPI Forest Science is partnering with CSIRO (Australian Tree Seed Centre) to investigate the productivity these woody biomass crops, grown under a variety of conditions.
The Tamworth climate lends itself to species such as Acacia dealbata (silver wattle); Eucalyptus viridis (green mallee); Eucalyptus infera (Durikai mallee); Eucalyptus polybractea (blue mallee); Eucalyptus cladocalix (sugar gum) and Eucalyptus camaldulensis (river red gum).
These varieties have been planted, with a specific focus on desirable features including fast growth, hardiness, resistance to drought and frost conditions, and potential for coppicing.
Trial sites have been established at Glen Innes, Yanco, Orange, and Scone, and in the coming months additional sites to be planted include Muswellbrook, Trangie and Tumut.