GREEN DEALS: A wind win for Victoria

Acciona's Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm gains final approval; Algae.Tec signs up for a world-first biofuel JV in China; and another fundraising success for LanzaTech.

Some welcome news for the Victorian wind sector this week with renewables giant Acciona announcing on Tuesday that the development plan for its Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm – 25km east of Colac – had gained final approval from the state government, and would now be proceeding to construction. The $A400 million, 63-turbine, 189MW/year wind farm – enough to meet the annual energy needs of about 88,000 households – was granted a planning permit back in 2006, thus dodging the prohibitive new planning laws announced by the Baillieu government in August, which give residents a right of veto over turbines within 2km of their home. Construction of the plant is slated for March.

Brett Wickham, Acciona Energy’s director of generation, says the Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm will bring significant economic benefits to the Colac region as well as providing clean, renewable energy. Wickham told The Age that the wind farm – which has up to 10 of its turbines located within 2km of local homes, and so might well have been blocked under the new planning regime – would create about 200 jobs during construction and 16 ongoing positions once in operation. In Australia, Spanish-based Acciona also operates the Waubra Wind Farm in Victoria and the Gunning Wind Farm in NSW, and is a joint venture partner for the Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm in South Australia.

East-West algae link

Perth-based listed advanced biofuel company Algae.Tec last week signed a binding MOU for a 50/50 equity joint venture with China's Shandong Kerui Group Holding Ltd. The JV's first project will be the construction of a 250-module algae biofuels facility in China – a world first of its size and type, according to Algae.Tec's executive chairman Roger Stroud – which will be purely focused on algae for the production of transport fuels. Stroud says the facility, to be built in Dongying, in Shandong Province, will produce around 33 million litres of algae-derived transport oil, and approximately 33,000 tonnes of biomass a year – at a combined value of over $40 million – while also capturing 137,000 tonnes of waste carbon dioxide. "And this should be the first of many,” he said. 

The JV is also expected to accelerate Algae.Tec's expansion in China, targeting corporations and environmental administration authorities.“China is a country truly focused on a 'blue skies' policy," said Stroud. "This JV has been formed to help China move towards this important goal. The Algae.Tec technology [the McConchie-Stroud biofuels production system] will reduce unwanted emissions and will convert them into locally produced transport fuels which will add to fuel independence." For its part, the Kerui Group will provide local business knowledge and expertise, which will should prove particularly useful when it comes to the JV's plans to secure government funding to build new projects exceeding 1,000 modules, and to engage with CO2 emitters in the Greater China region.

In the week before this news, Algae.Tec announced that the company was embarking on a four-fold expansion of its Atlanta, Georgia-based Algae Development & Manufacturing Centre to 70,000 sq ft to scale-up production line capability for existing and upcoming commercial projects. Last month, Algae.Tec signed a biofuels MOU with EU airline Lufthansa, and announced a biofuels production and carbon capture deal with the Sri Lanka subsidiary of industrial giant Holcim, the world’s largest cement and building materials company.

Waste-to-cash

New Zealand-based waste-to-fuel outfit LanzaTech has completed its third venture funding round, with new investment totaling $US55.8 million. The producer of low-carbon fuels and chemicals from waste gases closed its Series C round, which was led by the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund. New investors included PETRONAS Technology Ventures, the venture arm of Malaysia's national oil company, and Dialog Group, a leading Malaysian integrated specialist technical services provider to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry. Existing investors Khosla Ventures, Qiming Venture Partners and K1W1 also participated in the round. The company has raised more than $85 million to date.

“The size of this round and the quality of the new and returning investors is a strong validation of not only our technology, but the unparalleled opportunity for LanzaTech to be a global leader in biofuels and biochemicals markets,” Dr Holmgren said. And Holmgren told Bloomberg that LanzaTech may now consider an IPO after it enters operation later this year. “It’s reasonable to say that we’re looking at the market,” she said. “I think we’ll be in a very good position later on this year after the demo proves out to really start thinking about when we want to IPO,” she said. Roger Wyse, co-chairman of Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, says he believes the company has nearly limitless potential: “LanzaTech’s unique approach to taking a waste stream and converting it into a valuable and needed commodity will help address the dual challenge of energy demand and climate change without compromising the use of land and water resources.”