The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $838,000 in funding to Hardwick Processors, which will be used to install a 1 MW thermal demonstration-scale heat pump and to upgrade the electrical supply system at the company’s meat processing plant in Kyneton, Victoria.
The introduction of the heat pump will see the site produce enough hot water to improve the shelf life of its products and increase its access to the export market. It will also reduce the site’s reliance on natural gas by 75%.
The upgrades align with and benefit from Hardwick’s prior commitments to reduce its emissions through the use of its existing renewable energy supply infrastructure of 2.5 MW solar PV and a 2 MWh battery storage system.
The generation of process heat for industry is a major source of energy use, and since this usually relies on natural gas it is a significant contributor of carbon emissions. Certain applications of this heat — specifically, those with low temperatures around 80°C — are prime candidates for using renewable energy. Conveniently enough, this range is where heat pumps operate well.
Hardwick was selected in 2019 as a candidate to undertake a feasibility study looking at this specific topic, led by the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) and funded by ARENA. It was found that continuously running smaller, less expensive heat pumps, and storing the hot water in existing thermal tanks, was the most efficient way of producing process heat.
The Hardwick project funding also goes towards upgrading the electrical supply system to make the company a high-voltage customer, whereby it can take any excess electricity required for operation from the Powercor network. This will offer insights into the electrical supply infrastructure requirements associated with the total electrification of process heat generation for industry.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said: “The project offers us the opportunity to trial how using heat pumps can reduce reliance on natural gas and prove to the industry that this is technically and economically feasible and a viable solution to dramatically reduce emissions at their facilities.
“Hardwick Processors is at the forefront of helping to reduce emissions in the meat processing industry. Having already installed onsite solar PV and battery, it is now able to demonstrate how the hot water demand of industrial processing can be managed with the addition of heat pumps and use of thermal energy.
“This is a solution that we could see being replicated across other businesses in the industry.”
ARENA has also announced funding for a project to use ground source heat pumps at a poultry processor. This will see a full-scale solar PV and ground source heat pump system, with gas backup, for heating and cooling at a commercial broiler facility in Yanderra, NSW.
More information about ARENA’s projects is available online.
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