National farming first

Young piggery generates income from carbon credits 

A YOUNG piggery has become the first farm to generate income from government approved carbon credits, in a process that may be mimicked across the country.

Blantyre Farms has invested under $1 million on a biogas generator that exports electricity from the grid and will now earn carbon credit income as a bonus.

The farm has gone from paying monthly electricity bills of $15,000 to earning $5,000. That’s despite the farm gaining less than 4 cents per kilowatthour compared with the 20 cents they used to pay.

“The whole purpose for us was to eliminate our electricity bill,” farmer owner Edwina Beveridge said.

The carbon credits will also earn the farm as much as $150,000 a year.

“We were lucky that we fit so well into the carbon initiative scheme,” she said.

Blantyre Farms, with its 22,000 pigs, is the first farm to tap into the government’s Carbon Farming Initiative program, which will spend some $429 million over six years to advance efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in farming.

The government has approved four other projects involving the capture and flaring of landfill methane gas at four sites run by LMS Energy. Along with the destruction of methane generated from manure in piggeries and landfill gas combustion, officials have also certified methodologies for savannah burning and permanent native tree plantings.

“It’s great to have an approved project rather than just the methodology,” said Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, who attended yesterday’s launch near Young.

“We’re expecting it to be the first of many.”

“Heat from the generator is also being used to keep the baby piglets warm in their sheds. Innovative local Brisbane company Quantum Power developed the technology and built the equipment for the project,” he said.

Methane gas has about 20 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Blantyre Farms is burning some 2400 cubic meters of the gas each day, saving the equivalent of 32 tonnes of carbon dioxide, Mrs Beveridge said.

The farm earns about $15 a tonne for each carbon credit, which Mrs Beveridge is keen to sell in case the opposition wins government and scraps the whole scheme. “It would be disappointing if that was taken away,” she said.

Without the credits, the project’s payback time would roughly double to three years but would still be worth doing, she said, given the abundance of methane gas to be captured from the effluent pools: “We’re lucky to be pig farmers, aren’t we!”

Mrs Beveridge said getting the project accredited for carbon payments took since February and was “very bureaucratic,” but she expects the process to be shortened now that the first site has won approval.

Mr Dreyfus said Clean Energy Regulator has only had the necessary powers to oversee the scheme since April, and more approvals should be made soon.

A domestic offsets integrity committee is considering a further 40 methodologies with a similar model for dairy farmers capturing and combusting cow mature likely to be approved “within a couple of months”, he said.

Back at the pig farm, Mrs Beveridge had one other beef she’d like addressed. “When solar people sell power, they get 20 or 40 cents (per kilowatt hour)”, she said.

“I’d love for us to get the same price. Our electricity is just as clean and green and wonderful as theirs is.”

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