Plant proposed to turn waste into energy

An artist’s impression of what a new $350million waste-to-energy plant in the Waimate district...
An artist’s impression of what a new $350million waste-to-energy plant in the Waimate district could look like. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
New Zealand has a landfill crisis and is ready for waste-to-energy technology, the man behind a plan to build a multimillion-dollar energy plant near Waimate says.

Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor
The South Canterbury town is being considered as a possible site for a new $350million plant that generates energy from waste.

South Island Resource Recovery Limited (SIRRL) — a joint venture between New Zealand’s Renew Energy Limited, China Tianying Incorporated and Spanish company Urbaser — has identified three areas in the district that could be suitable.

Director Paul Taylor said Waimate was well-placed between Dunedin and Christchurch, and the potential sites were close to the national grid and the railway network.

SIRRL had been in contact with councils in the South Island about the proposed plant, and had been approached by several large companies seeking new ways to dispose of their waste and reduce their carbon footprint.

"So it’s not just councils, in terms of waste supply," Mr Taylor said.

The plant could convert 350,000tonnes of waste into renewable energy each year, by burning rubbish to create steam which would then be fed through a turbine to produce electricity.

Waste materials delivered to the plant would be contained in a negative pressure bunker, and all emissions from the processing would meet strict air quality and noise standards.

Ash produced in the conversion process could be used in construction materials and roading, "so it’s further cycled into the economy", he said.

"There will be no visible air discharges emitted from the plant into the atmosphere other than non-toxic condensing water vapour.

"Steam produced within the plant is converted into electricity and delivered to local industries as well as to the national grid.

"The bottom line here is, we have to get a resource consent, and the RMA has very stringent controls. Ultimately, they’ll be the gatekeepers for whatever we do, and we will be completely transparent with that, in terms of real-time monitoring of the emissions."

The company’s focus was diverting waste from landfill — not recycling, he said.

"The proposed plant can run alongside New Zealand’s essential waste minimisation and recycling efforts and, at the same time, produce renewable energy to benefit the local economy."

Community drop-in sessions were held at the Waimate Event Centre this week to answer questions about the plans, and it was planned to hold a public meeting before lodging resource consents with Environment Canterbury and the Waimate District Council.

Mr Taylor understood the Waimate community would have questions and could have concerns about the development.

In the construction phase, the plant would create work for more than 300 people and about 100 jobs would be created at the plant when it was operational.

SIRRL wanted to involve the community in the design of the plant, Mr Taylor said.

Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley said it was an exciting proposal for the district.

"This would include new employment opportunities and is yet another example of the district’s appeal to commercial operators," Mr Rowley said.

"This initiative has yet to go through the required consenting process, but we know the growth these major enterprises can create — and that’s a big positive for the Waimate district."

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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