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New biomass database to help boost renewable energy sector and open new markets for farmers 08 Jan 2016

Australia’s farmers could benefit from a new database being developed by the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC) which will map out the locations of existing and potential biomass that could be purchased for renewable bioenergy generation. 

Biomass is any organic matter of plant or animal origin and it can be used to generate electricity and heat or to produce liquid fuels for transport. Biomass is available in many forms, such as agricultural products, forestry products, and municipal and other waste.

Traditionally mainly woody biomass has been used for bioenergy, however more recent technologies have expanded the potential resources to those such as agricultural residues, oilseeds and algae. 

The database that is being developed by RIRDC with $3 million support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will bring together data on biomass resources across Australia, providing a clearer picture of where untapped sources of biomass are available.

RIRDC’s Managing Director, Craig Burns said the $6.2 million project would help the Australian bioenergy sector become better integrated and ultimately more productive and efficient. 

“This database will build better linkages between biomass producers, many of whom are farmers, and bioenergy generators; and that will make it easier to develop biomass generation and biofuel projects in Australia,” Mr Burns said.

“Once developed, the database should also help farmers and businesses get more value from organic material destined for landfill, disposal or other low value uses by more easily identifying potential buyers for that biomass.

“Once RIRDC has collected the data it will be used to map where biomass resources currently are or where they are predicted to be and then group this with other data on transport infrastructure, land use capability and demographics.” 

RIRDC will work with states and territories to collect data on the location, volumes and availability of biomass for inclusion on the ARENA-supported Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure (AREMI) platform. AREMI is a centrally accessible repository for ARENA project information and shares mapping data and information with the renewable energy industry.

“There is huge growth potential in the bioenergy sector with bioenergy currently accounting for nearly 1 percent of Australia’s electricity production, and 7 per cent of renewable electricity production. Biofuels account for approximately 1-3 percent of Australia’s fuel consumption,” Mr Burns said.

The first tranche of data is expected to be uploaded to the database in mid-2016 and the project is scheduled for completion in November 2020.

As part of the project Queensland University of Technology and University of the Sunshine Coast will form a partnership to develop interactive analytic tools to enhance the utility of the data. The investigative tools will be developed in conjunction with various industry sectors to present useful information on current and future potential biomass resources.