Z-Filter and Cleaner & Greener Energy for AMR

More news about our Z-Filter projectDeputy Chair Ian Williams presented the outcomes of our project the Regional Estuaries Initiative (REI) Conference in Mandurah. The article below provides more information on how our project is benefitting environmentally and financially the dairy sector.
Torben Grell who was the project’s operator and now doing a PhD with the University of Southern Queensland to continue research in the area will be one of the panel members at this week’s Caring for Country sustainability seminar.
Caring for Country
Thursday 26 August 2021 5-7pm
Margaret River Education Campus, W10 Winery Classroom
Separation of Dairy Effluent for Financial and Environmental Benefit 
August 2021A closed loop approach to dairy farming turns effluent into compost and irrigation water and the potential for creating energy, while at the same time benefitting the environment. The key is the separation of dairy effluent into its liquid and solid components. These resources can be stored and distributed, giving the farmer control over when and how they are used on-farm. 
A partnership involving dairy farmer Brad Boley, Augusta Margaret River Clean Community Energy group and Lower Blackwood LCDC undertook a trial at Boley’s 1600 cow dairy farm on the Scott River Coastal Plain. The project was supported by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s Regional Estuaries Initiative, funded through the State Government’s Royalties for Regions. Ian Williams, Torben Grell and Dr Stephan Tait were the key researchers.
The trial used commercial Z-Filter technology to separate the dairy effluent into a liquid filtrate and a solid cake. The composition of raw effluent was measured and compared to those of the filtrate and cake. The trial also tested the use of chemicals and lime in enabling a more efficient extraction of nutrients from the filtrate into the cake. Measurements were taken in summer and winter.
Results showed that the Z-Filter, both with and without the use of added chemicals or lime, removed the manure fibres from the effluent. The water filtrate could then be used for irrigation through a centre pivot, while the solid cake could be composted for on-farm use. Together they reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers and potentially increase soil health and soil carbon.  At the same time, the effluent is not flowing across the paddocks or reaching waterways. This outcome brings both financial and environmental benefits. 
The additional use of chemicals combined with lime in the separation process achieved an increased extraction of manure fibres (400%) as well as phosphorous (80%) and nitrogen (49%) into the solid cake.  This means the cake will result in a more nutrient-rich natural compost, and likely enhance the soil productivity where the farmer chooses to apply it.  Methane emissions have also reduced as a result of the Z-Filter. Further studies will detail the above benefits. A dairy farmer using such a system would also work with an agronomist to optimise the timing of chemical and lime use during separation, and of storage and distribution of the resources, in order to bring the most benefit to the farm.
Operational challenges existed with the technology, and lined ponds will still be needed to store the water filtrate in wet months. Cost is also a fa24ctor, with a $200,000 spend to acquire and fully integrate the Z-Filter into the operating and irrigation system. However, these drawbacks were outweighed by the financial and environmental benefits for the farmer in the trial who subsequently invested in the equipment. Shared/transportable systems, providing separation and collection services to a group of smaller dairies, could be viable in the future. 
This trial was the first of its kind in the world on a dairy farm. It justifies further exploration of manure separation approaches to provide options for dairy farms to greatly value-add to effluent and enhance environmental benefits.
Community Energy Initiative
 Augusta Margaret River Clean Community Energy Incorporated and Geraldton Community Energy are two community groups working in collaboration with Clear Energy to retail electricity to regional WA communities to deliver sustainable electricity that is cheaper, cleaner, locally generated and allows the local community to share in the benefits through savings and profits.
Clear Energy builds renewable generation on site at no cost to the customer who in turn purchases cleaner energy for 10% less than their current bill cost. Community groups are involved as agents for Clear Energy and receive a share of the revenues to use in their community. Clear Energy creates employment and business opportunities by employing and contracting services locally stimulating economic development in regional WA.
The model allows those who are excluded from renewables to access renewables at no cost to themselves. Households and businesses wanting renewables do not have to find the upfront capital to purchase renewable systems but can still have a role in emissions reduction. In addition, the savings in their electricity bill contributes to their sustainability and they know they are supporting local employees, contractors, and community group activities. AMRCCE will use its income to continue to reduce emissions in the local community. 
Energy generation is by way of bespoke systems designed to provide a best match to the energy use of the clients. This is of particular benefit to contestable customers who have been tailoring their activities to match orthodox energy pricing and the Clear solution allows them to operate during day-time hours. 
In the shire of Augusta Margaret River, the first two contestable customers signed are expected to reduce their emissions by 845,000 kg CO2/year with substantial annual savings from the $1 million dollars in renewable generation assets installed at their premises. One local job has been created so far and local contractors are used to construct the generation systems. The aim is to deliver more than 20MW of renewable generation capacity within 5 years. 

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