In a major milestone for the utility’s sustainability goals, Yarra Valley Water’s waste to energy facility has processed 100,000 tonnes of food waste – the equivalent of 40 Olympic swimming pools.
The emissions saved are equal to taking more than 45,000 cars off Victorian roads for a year, with enough renewable electricity produced to power Yarra Valley Water’s head office for eleven years.
The milestone comes on the back of the Wollert facility’s busiest period yet, with over 3,000 tonnes of food waste received and processed.
The waste to energy business model makes it cheaper for businesses to deposit food waste at the facility than at landfill, while also offering them a way to support the environment.
Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, Pat McCafferty, said that the organisation’s waste to energy business is central to the organisation advancing its commitment to transitioning to a circular economy.
“We’re focused on supporting the health and wellbeing of our customers and creating a brighter future for communities and the natural environment by reducing our carbon footprint,” Mr McCafferty said.
“The waste to energy facility has allowed us to work with the communities we service to contribute to a circular economy by slashing food waste that typically ends up in landfill and reducing our emissions.”
Over the past four years, the waste to energy facility has reduced Yarra Valley Water’s energy costs and generated over $8 million in benefits – savings that help the organisation to maintain affordable bills for customers.
The facility powers itself as well as the sewage and recycled water treatment facility next door, with enough excess energy – about 70 per cent – to export to the electricity grid.
Yarra Valley Water has partnered with over 20 businesses which provide spoiled food waste to power the facility. This ranges from fruit and vegetables from shopping centres and markets to food manufacturing waste, grease trap waste and restaurant food waste.
“The reception we’ve had from the business community shows that it is absolutely possible to make environmental projects commercially viable without the need for subsidies,” Mr McCafferty said.
Yarra Valley Water recently announced it will build its second waste to energy facility, which will operate at an even greater capacity than its existing facility at Wollert. The new facility at Lilydale will be able to process around 50,000 tonnes of food waste every year.
Solar panels are also generating energy for Yarra Valley Water’s head office, treatment facilities and electric vehicle fleet.
Power from these, the waste to energy facility and a northern Victoria solar farm, produce enough clean energy to meet 50 per cent of Yarra Valley Water’s energy needs. Yarra Valley Water is therefore on its way to meet its target of generating 100 per cent of its own energy needs through renewable energy by 2025.