Yarram Circular Economy event – GridEdge report

Recently GridEdge was part of the Yarram Circular Economy event on 23rd May 2021, hosted by Yarram Community Energy. GridEdge in conjunction with Regenerative Resources are working to set up a Renewable Energy Park at the Radial Timbers Sawmill in Yarram with the first stage involving a pyrolysis unit supported by a SoNick battery storage system.

The day started with tours of the Radial Timber mill. As the first tour at 10.00am was so well attended the attendees were split into 2 groups. One group heard from Chris McEvoy, director of the Radial Timber Mill about how the radial timber mill concept developed and how it improves the yields of the timber being used and reduces wastage in the milling process. He also talked about the sustainable timber plantations they have available to make sure the mill is viable well into the future.

Another proposal for the park or stage 2 is a solar energy installation, again backed by SoNick Battery storage to provide more energy to the mill and also via a “community benefit sharing model” ongoing income to the Yarram Community Energy group to provide renewable energy projects in Yarram.

This group then heard from Brendan Lindstrom from Regenerative Resources, supported by Linda Ballis from GridEdge about the proposed Yarram Renewable Energy Park. Stage 1 of the park’s development involves a Pyrolysis unit backed with SoNick Battery storage to process the timber waste at the mill and provide energy to the mill as well as bio products that can create new business opportunities for Yarram new businesses. A research facility will also be part of this stage where universities and other education or research facilities can utilize the pyrolysis machine for their own research and education.

Further stages will involve a larger pyrolysis unit to process more of the timber waste from the mill and from onsite at the timber plantations to provide more energy for the mill and make the mill a closed loop business. Hot houses or other similar businesses can be co-located on site to utilize the energy supplied or the heating that can be provided from the bio-crude oil. Eventually a neighborhood battery can be installed to provide power for the wider Yarram district.

Tony Britton, the Radial timber mill manager then took this group on a tour through the mill and explained the mills operations including the shed where the proposed community solar installation will be mounted. For many Yarram residents this was a great opportunity to see what has happened in the mill over the last 10 years.

These 2 groups then swapped over and then another group at 11am repeated the process.

The days events then continued at the Regent theatre in the main street of Yarram with a number of displays where people could talk to various stall holders about a variety of aspects of transitioning to a circular economy for Yarram and surrounding areas. These stalls included information for residents, local farmers and businesses.

These stalls included Radial timber mill and Heartwood plantations, Glawac and Warrigunya Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Star of the South, Yarram Yarram Landcare Network, Farmers for Climate Action, Wellington Shire, Gippsland Climate Change Network, Gippsland Tafe, Solar Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Latrobe Valley Authority and Gippsland Smart Specialisation, Radial Timber Renewable Energy Park, GridEdge Battery Solutions.

Outside, Ian Southall from GCCN had his renewable energy trailer which is used to showcase various renewable energy technologies and how they work. Ian takes this trailer to various events and schools where he has a program that can be delivered to various grade levels.

From 1pm there were a number of talks and this section of the afternoon was chaired by Matt Langdon of Yarram Traders Association. These started with a welcome from the Wellington Shire mayor, Garry Stephens followed by a presentation from Scott Elliot from Yarram Yarram Landcare about their blue carbon project at Corner inlet and how this can fit into a circular economy. Andrew Lester from Yarram Community Energy Group than gave a short talk about the newly formed group and what we hope to achieve in Yarram including getting members from Yarram to join the project and move it forward with their own areas of expertise.

Matt Charles-Jones, founding member of Totally Renewable Yackandandah then gave a talk about how their renewable energy group started and how they have moved forward towards an aim of being 100% renewable by 2022. This involved educating people about energy efficiency measures they can take in their own homes to reduce energy consumption and putting solar PV installations and/or batteries on homes and businesses. The group has also been involved in making several local buildings, like the fire station energy independent in case of an emergency. They have recently installed a community battery, called Yack-01 as a further step towards the 100% renewable goal for energy security.

A panel discussion was next with Matt Charles-Jones, Chris McEvoy, Scott Elliot and Andrew Lester where members of the audience asked questions of the various presenters.

This turned out to be a very successful day with many residents of Yarram and surrounding areas showing interest in supporting the Yarram Renewable Energy Park and becoming involved in the Yarram community energy group.

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