The Winton Shire Council has struck a deal with Queensland’s Local Government Infrastructure Services (LGIS) body to generate electricity from the Great Artesian Basin via a geothermal energy plant – which could save around
$15 million in energy costs.
Reportedly, the technology will not change the geological or chemical composition of water supplies in the region. Rather, it will use the hot water flowing from existing bores and convert heat into a sustainable long-term energy source for the town.
The development of the alternative energy power plant sits in stark contrast to dozens of local governments that are at loggerheads with the coal-seam-gas industry, which is keen on extracting the fuel as a lucrative overseas export, as reported by Government News.
Alternative and renewable energy initiatives by councils used to be primarily about showing environmental values. However, most local governments are pursuing projects that put savings straight into their bottom line by paying energy utilities less.
According to Winton Shire Council and LGIS, the new geothermal plant, once operational, will not only power the council’s key buildings, but also have the potential to power the entire town.
Winton Shire Council Mayor ‘Butch’ Lenton put the new geothermal plant’s payback period at less than seven years. He added the savings garnered would free-up sorely needed extra money for community projects.
Mayor Lenton said a massive drought, economic hardship and a significant reduction in state and federal government funding for community services and assets had left the town hurting, like a lot of Western Queensland regions.
“When a project comes along that can save our community millions we want to explore it thoroughly,’ he said.
The council’s chief executive Tom Upton is similarly enthusiastic about the project’s potential, adding other communities in the region would be excited by it finally going ahead.
“Geothermal energy is used across the world and here we are in Western Queensland, we are sitting on one of the best sources of hot water in the world and not utilising its potential,” he said, as reported by Government News.
But with the fractious politics of water never far away, the council and LGIS – which is designing the geothermal plant – were at pains to stress it will use water from already running bores to supply heat, as opposed to so-called ‘hot rocks’ technology that drills down deep to tap heat by getting closer to the earth’s core.
LGIS chief executive Jari Ihalainen told Government News advancements in geothermal energy generation have opened up the possibility of utilising water temperatures as low as 70°C to generate power.
“[Geothermal technology] is a great opportunity for those Western Queensland councils located on the Great Artesian Basin,’ Mr Ihalainen said.