Energy from waste

Dr Bonnie Monteleone

Dr Bonnie Monteleone is Co-founder, Executive Director and Director of Science, Research and Academic Partnerships for Plastic Ocean Project, Inc. whose mission is to educate through field research, implement progressive outreach initiatives, and incubate solutions to address the global plastic pollution problem. 

Dr Bonnie Monteleone is a field scientist, researcher and student supervisor in the Chemistry department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). Dr Bonnie is also a 5 Gyres Institute ambassador; part of the Ocean Defenders Alliance; Cape Fear Rise Above Plastic through Surfrider; the UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Program; Algalita Marine Research Foundation; NC Monofilament Recovery and Recycling receptacles at Johnny Mercer Peer; contributes to the Plastic Ocean Project blog and more! She has collected plastic marine samples globally including 4 of the 5 gyres, the Caribbean, and has extended this work to Pyramid Lake, in a Nevada desert outside of Reno.

The passionate Dr Monteleone joins the Beyond Zero team to talk about plastic leachates, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) uptakes, plastic ingestion by marine organisms and the many solutions and projects she is running. She is also an accomplished artist, turning some of the plastic she collects on her  voyages into modern artistic masterpieces.

Dr Helena I. Gomes & Dr Helen Baxter


Dr Helena I. Gomes and Dr Helen Baxter from the University of Hull in the UK are researching Vanadium - "the beautiful metal that stores energy".  Vanadium is the key element used in redox flow batteries which can store large amounts of energy almost indefinitely, perfect for remote wind or solar farms. 

Brendan Condon

Positive moves towards a sustainable society

Brendan Condon is Managing Director and co-founder of Australian Ecosystems, an integrated company specialising in ecological land restoration. He is also Director at The Cape sustainable housing project and Biofilta Stormwater Solutions

Brendan Condon believes we have been "sitting on our hands" regarding matters relating to climate change for too long and ignoring the urgent need for a serious vision for the future. Who could argue with that? Certainly the P.M. would agree that this is an "exciting time"  but they would have amazingly different paths. Brendan has chosen to develop the means of capturing and re-using the storm water that we see flowing down our gutters carrying all the rubbish into the Bay, instead to capture the pollution by means of a plant filtering system. One of the largest of these systems of returning and re-using this water is in the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne.

Another of his areas of challenge and developed expertise is the development of good design in sustainable housing (e.g. The Cape Paterson sustainable housing project). He points out that apart from environmental grounds there are marked improvements economically with the rise in the price of gas coupled with the drop in the price of solar.

Other projects of interest include the development of vertical and horizontal gardens useful for city dwellers for urban food production, community gardens, autonomous electric vehicles (probable in the next decade), when one can read a book on the way to work!

All this should be of interest to anyone planning a home, living in the city or merely caring about the importance of food and water and waste management for the present and the future.  

(Summary written by BZE volunteer Bev McIntyre)

Can Sydney Green The Grid?

By Justin Field and Norman Thompson

The City of Sydney's trigas generator scheme is being built by Origin - Australia's largest coal seam gas producer. What happened to the transition to biogas, ask Norman Thompson and Justin Field

Read part one of Norman Thompson and Justin Field’s story on Sydney’s trigas scheme here

Sydney Council’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan targets a 70 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels. At the centre of the plan is a trigeneration (trigen) network across the city that will burn gas to deliver electricity, heating and cooling to city buildings.

The aims of the plan are commendable and emission reductions on this scale are needed Australia wide. But the implementationvia a trigen network that will be built and maintained by Australia’s largest coal seam gas company (CSG), Origin Energy, raises serious questions about its ability to achieve the emission reduction targets.

According to the City’s Trigeneration Master Plan, council has "resolved that by 2030 renewable gases from waste and other … sources will replace fossil fuel natural gas in the trigeneration systems". This means that until that time CSG, which currently makes up around 5 per cent of NSW supply, will be used to power the system.

The plan suggests the City has identified sufficient waste-derived renewable feed-stocks to generate and supply biogas to the trigen system, however it acknowledges the plans for moving to renewable gas are yet to be finalised.

In April 2012 Sydney Council signed an agreement (pdf) with Origin Energy’s totally owned subsidiary Cogent Energy to begin building the trigen system. Under the agreement "Origin will be responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the trigen plants".

Origin Energy has a 37.5 per cent stake in Australia Pacific LNG which is constructing a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant at Gladstone in Queensland. Origin is responsible for construction and operation of the project’s CSG fields.

Neither Origin nor Cogent have notable experience in biogas projects and Origin promotes itself as Australia’s largest producer of coal seam gas.

Denmark's largest biogas plant, Lemvig

Pooran Desai OBE, BioRegional & BedZED eco-village

Pooran Desai OBE is Co-founder of BioRegional and International Director of One Planet Communities, not-for-profit organisations creating an initiative of practical projects and partnerships that demonstrate how we can live within our fair share of the earth’s resources.

Pooran Desai and Sue Riddlestone also created BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development), the UK’s first and best-known large-scale mixed use sustainable community, with 100 homes, office space for around 100 workers and community facilities, which was completed in 2002 (in South London).

Biogas no saviour for Sydney’s trigen plan


The City of Sydney plans to build a network of gas burners, each of which would simultaneously provide power, heating and cooling to public and private buildings.

The City believes that this approach – known as trigeneration – would reduce the carbon emissions of connected buildings by 40 to 60 per cent.

Unfortunately, rolling out a trigeneration network would have the highly undesirable consequences of fostering coal-seam gas production – which has dire environmental side-effects – and reducing the amount of biogas available to chemical and industrial processes.

It would also be a missed opportunity to build a grid powered by wind and solar. We have already covered this in our earlier article at Renew Economy.

Talking biogas, using coal-seam gas

Building the trigeneration network would result in greater demand for gas in NSW. This is because it would displace grid electricity that is currently largely drawn from non-gas sources (ie coal).

The future of gas supply in NSW is clouded with doubt. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in April, the NSW state government has warned that ”Bass Strait and Cooper Basin gas supplies are dwindling at a time when the gas export industry is growing at an extraordinary rate.”

This means that, for the foreseeable future, the demand for extra gas will stimulate growth in the dirty, unconventional gas sector – shale gas in SA, and coal-seam gas in QLD and NSW.

Image: Lemvig biogas plant in Denmark

Florian Amlinger talks biogas and waste management

Beyond Zero's Vivien Langford talks to Florian Amlinger, a consultant for the Ministry of the Environment in Vienna. Florian is an expert in biogas and waste management. He talks about the development of biogas digesters and technology in Europe which are used on a commercial scale.

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