Australian Government Studies Nuts to Save Energy

Almond trees in blossom

It turns out that the electricity demand for hulling and shelling of nuts can be met with a fraction of waste they produce. To be precise, almonds are not nuts, but drupes and are most closely related to the peach. Anyway, The Almond Board of Australia has recently released the results of a study called “Renewable Energy Production from Almond Waste” that shows that technology is available to convert waste almond hull and shell into electrical and heat energy.

The Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Martin Ferguson AM MP, congratulated the Almond Board for taking a proactive, environmentally, and economically sensible approach to reducing the industry’s carbon emissions and energy costs.

“The study by the Almond Board is a step in the right direction for the industry, as it identifies a pathway for the possible use of almond waste as a feedstock for renewable energy power generation, that offset the industry’s power requirements,” Minister Ferguson said.

The $60,000 study, which was supported by $32,000 in funding from the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s Emerging Renewables Program, found that 20 per cent of the industry’s husk and shell waste could be used to offset its energy demand by carefully matching it with the availability of feedstock and technology costs.

With continued growth of bioenergy forecast, the use of bioenergy for electricity generation is projected by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics to increase by 3.9 per cent a year between 2012–13 and 2049–50.  This could have a significant impact on Australia’s energy landscape through the development of diversified power supplies and continuing reduction in the nation’s carbon footprint.

“This study is an excellent start to keeping the production of almonds in step with community expectations around industry sustainability,” Minister Ferguson said.

“The study also highlights the importance of industry undertaking proper monitoring of its energy use, which will in turn help it to make energy efficiency improvements across the almond production process.”

The Almond Board is now considering its options for implementation, which could include undertaking a site specific feasibility study; a physical trial to better understand the technologies that can be used to turn the shell and husk feedstock into energy; and running an integrated, site specific project to meet onsite and local supply and demand.

ARENA is a $3.2 billion Australian Government commitment to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia. It is part of the Government’s Clean Energy Future package.

The Almond Board study can be found at ARENA website.

González, J., Gañán, J., Ramiro, A., González-García, C., Encinar, J., Sabio, E., & Román, S. (2006). Almond residues gasification plant for generation of electric power. Preliminary study Fuel Processing Technology, 87 (2), 149-155 DOI: 10.1016/j.fuproc.2005.08.010

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