James Rus­sell

El­e­ment ed­i­tor

Element - - Contents -

On the out­skirts of lit­tle old Darfield, just west of Christchurch, some­thing big is hap­pen­ing. Con­struc­tion of the world’s largest milk dry­ing plant is un­der­way. Have a go at the num­bers: $500 mil­lion to build. Seven mil­lion litres of milk a day. 170 new jobs. And the big­gie – rev­enue of $780 mil­lion a year from the over­seas buy­ers. There is, of course, other num­bers: To dry this much milk, you need heat – 75MW of it. This will be gen­er­ated by burn­ing 90,000 tonnes of coal each year, and pump­ing 150,000 tonnes of C02 into the at­mos­phere. Mean­while ear­lier this year the Waiouru Army Base was praised by the gov­ern­ment for fully con­vert­ing its 8MWboil­ers to wood pel­lets, cut­ting CO2 emis­sions by 10,500 tonnes and boost­ing the wood en­ergy in­dus­try. Ac­co­mo­da­tion for 1400 staff as well as train­ing, work­shop, cater­ing and of­fice fa­cil­i­ties are now all heated with re­new­able bioen­ergy. Ash from the boil­ers is now a fer­tiliser for the gar­dens on the base – un­like coal ash which needs care­ful dis­posal. There were two op­tions looked at for Darfield: coal or wood biomass. Coal: cheap, plen­ti­ful, pol­lut­ing, fi­nite. Wood: cheap, plen­ti­ful, clean, in­fi­nite. A re­al­is­tic price on car­bon could have made this a no-brainer, but an in­ef­fec­tive ETS sys­tem meant coal got the nod. The Fon­terra plant is a mighty show of eco­nomic con­fi­dence and ro­bust in­vest­ment from the com­pany be­hind the lion’s share of our sec­ond largest ex­port stream. It’s a missed op­por­tu­nity not to have set it up as a sus­tain­able op­er­a­tion.

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