Meat processing site

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced that it will provide $838,000 in funding to Hardwick Processors, to install a 1MW (thermal) demonstration-scale heat pump, and upgrade the electrical supply system at its meat processing plant in Kyneton, Victoria.

The heat pump upgrade is set to enable Hardwick Processors to produce enough hot water to increase the shelf life of meat at the site as well as export market growth, while reducing the site’s reliance on natural gas by over 75 per cent.

The project will also benefit from Hardwick Processors’ previous commitments to reduce emissions by utilising the existing on-site renewable energy supply infrastructure of 2.5MW solar PV and a 2MWh battery storage system.

Around half of the total energy used by the Australian meat industry comes from industrial process heat, which typically uses natural gas. Reducing the reliance on natural gas for process heat represents a significant opportunity to decarbonise the industry and reduce exposure to volatile gas prices.

Low temperature (~80°C) industrial process heat applications, such as hot water, are amongst the most accessible to supply with renewable energy. Heat pumps operate in this range comfortably and can be powered with renewable electricity.

In 2019, Hardwick Processors was selected from a shortlist of manufacturers to undertake a feasibility study into using renewable energy to provide process heat, as part of a project led by the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) and funded by ARENA. 

Hardwick Processors received funding for the demonstration project following the findings of this study, which showed that it would be most efficient to run a smaller and less expensive heat pump continuously, storing hot water in existing thermal storage tanks. 

In addition to the heat pump installation, Hardwick Processors will also upgrade itselectrical supply system to become a high voltage customer, taking any excess electricity required from the Powercor network. This upgrade could provide valuable insights into the electrical supply infrastructure requirements associated with completely electrifying process heat for the meat industry.

ARENA Chief Executive Officer, Darren Miller, said the demonstration project would help to reduce barriers to uptake for the industry.

“The project offers us the opportunity to trial how using heat pumps can reduce reliance on natural gas and prove to the industry that this is technically and economically feasible, and a viable solution to dramatically reduce emissions at their facilities,” Mr Miller said. 

“Hardwick Processors is at the forefront of helping to reduce emissions in the meat processing industry. Having already installed on-site solar PV and battery, it is now able to demonstrate how the hot water demand of industrial processing can be managed with the addition of heat pumps and use of thermal energy.

“This is a solution that we could see being replicated across other businesses in the industry.” 

ARENA also recently announced funding to Ground Source Systems to demonstrate a full-scale solar PV and ground-source heat pump system, with gas backup, for heating and cooling at a commercial broiler facility in Yanderra, NSW. The hybrid system will see LPG replaced as a fuel for heating and cooling a single shed for housing chickens.

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