Hot water may both power and conserve

Posted May 29, 2015

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Maitland Maltby LGIS manager - Energy, Margaret de Wit Local Government Association Queensland president, Butch Lenton Winton Shire Council mayor and Tom Upton Winton Shire Council CEO at the project launch.

A western Queensland council is investigating ways to reduce its environmental footprint while saving up to half a million dollars a year in power costs.

The Winton Shire Council currently runs the town off bore water from the Artesian Basin. That water comes out of the basin at a temperature of about 86 degrees.

This heat offers a rare opportunity for power production through a geo-thermal plant.

The council has spent the last year and a half completing feasibility studies into the construction of a 250-kilowatt plant to service its assets.

“Although we haven’t fully committed yet we have a reasonably high degree of confidence in the technology,” Winton Shire Council chief executive officer Thomas Upton said.

“Water to generate electricity through the geothermal process is a proven technology across the world.

“Council is just going through a detailed design process to ensure that it will translate to the Winton environmental and technical conditions.”

The council power bill currently sits at about $500,000 a year.

A geothermal plant would have the potential to provide enough power for all council assets, said Mr Upton.

All up, the geothermal plant would come in at a cost of $3m, with a payback period of six to seven years.

Similar projects overseas have recorded a plant life of about 20 years.

If the project gets the green light there may be room for expansion in the future and if legislative changes are made the local community could also one day cash in on the savings, said Mr Upton.

“At the present time Queensland legislation prevents us from providing power to third parties as you have to be a registered electricity provider,” he said.

“The new Queensland Government is looking at expanding the capacity to sell electricity in Queensland which would be a good outcome for us.

“The plant could potentially be scaled up to increase the power output but at this present time it’s not in the short term plans.”

The final plant design will be ready in about June and if approved, the plant could be up and running following a 12-month construction period.

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