Colac water reclaimation plant

The Colac water reclamation plant is undergoing upgrades to increase treatment capacity, install an Australian-first hot water network, and the infrastructure to convert waste-to-energy to support renewable energy production and emission reduction.

Works on stage two of the Colac Renewable Organics Network (RON) at Barwon Water’s Colac reclamation plant are now underway to enhance the treatment capacity at the plant to facilitate growth in Colac and replace aging infrastructure. The works will also see more renewable energy produced at the Colac RON, sending renewable electricity to the grid, reducing the Australian Lamb Company (ALC) natural gas usage and contributing to emissions reductions.

Barwon Water Managing Director, Tracey Slatter, said the works would see the construction of the Australian-first hot water network that will transfer heat back to the Australian Lamb Company for use in its operations.

“Installation of a second cogeneration unit (generator) on the site will be a key component of this stage two work. The new ‘co-gen’ unit will double energy production and enable operation of the hot water network through the additional heat it will produce. It will also see more electricity sent to the grid,” Ms Slatter said.

The heat transferred via the hot water network will offset the Australian Lamb Company’s natural gas consumption from the grid by 21.4t/j each year – equivalent to the gas usage of 350 households.

The plant will soon also accept liquid organic waste from Bulla Dairy Foods and will produce 5.5GWh of energy – equivalent to the electricity usage of more than 1,000 households.
Not only does this significantly reduce the high-energy cost of treating sewage and wastewater, helping to keep Barwon Water customers’ bills affordable, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the site by 6,300t per year.

Stage two of the Colac Renewable Organics Network is expected to be fully operational in 2023.

Ms Slatter said Barwon Water’s partnership on the project with Australia Lamb Company and Bulla Dairy Foods was extremely positive.

“Together, we are turning waste into a valuable resource, which reduces our carbon footprint, decreases our energy costs, which helps keep our customers’ bills affordable, and creates local jobs,” Ms Slatter said.

“The project is a win-win for Barwon Water, our customers, local industry and the prosperity of our region.

“Treating water and sewage is an energy-intensive process, so powering the plant on renewable energy delivers huge benefits to the environment and to our operating costs and is helping us deliver our commitment to achieve 100 per cent renewable electricity use by 2025 and zero net emissions by 2030.

“Who would have thought organic waste and sewage would become such valuable resources as we reduce emissions, become more efficient and deliver a circular economy?”

In further exciting news for the project, DELWP has recently announced $50,000 circular economy funding for concept design of a possible stage three of the Colac RON.

“The concept design for Colac RON stage three will investigate the feasibility of processing solid organic waste in the Colac region, which could mean taking kerbside organic waste collected by Colac Otway Shire, or other solid organic waste from Bulla Dairy foods, ALC, Colac Area Health, and wood packaging business CMTP,” Ms Slatter said.

Key benefits would include a local solution for solid organic waste processing, carbon sequestration through the production of soil enhancers like bio-char, renewable energy production and managing costs for customers.

Stage one of the innovative project was commissioned in December 2021, meaning the town’s water reclamation plant is now powered by renewable energy thanks to the biogas produced by organic waste from ALC as it breaks down

The Colac RON, which is creating 17 construction jobs and 45 ongoing jobs, has previously been supported by $240,000 in funding from the Victorian Government.

Feature image of Colac water reclamation plant courtesy of Baron Water. 

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