part of the solution

biochar and energy from trees
A new bioenergy project aimed at sequestering carbon emissions and building resilient landscapes in western Victoria is underway, thanks to a US$355,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation.

The research - being led by Greening Australia and involving a range of research partners including the University of Adelaide and CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences - aims to harness bioenergy markets through the establishment of diverse native species bioenergy plantations.  These plantations can be used to produce energy as well as biochar, a type of charcoal that can sequester carbon in the earth for thousands of years.

“Essentially we are investigating how trees can be burned to produce syngas, which can be used for energy generation, and biochar, that enriches the soil while sequestering carbon,” said Dave Warne, Project Manager, Greening Australia.

The Alcoa Foundation grant is a part of a US$4 million worldwide ‘Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions’ initiative that is funding 10 sustainability research projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the United States.

“Loss of biodiversity and elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are two significant problems facing Australia and the rest of the world.  New opportunities to counter this problem are emerging through the development of carbon markets,” Mr Warne said. 

“These opportunities include carbon markets for bioenergy, which is renewable energy derived from biological sources, and biosequestration which is the capture and storage of atmospheric carbon by biological processes. 

“The demand for bioenergy and biosequestration of carbon represent potentially powerful new market forces that can harness the reforestation of vast areas of land. If we are smart about it, we can use this opportunity to tackle issues like salinity, erosion and biodiversity loss.”

The research is being couched within a visionary large-scale landscape transformation program called Habitat 141, which aims to restore ecological function within productive farming landscapes across 700kms straddling South Australia and Victoria.

“Alcoa strives to address environmental issues within our operations, across our industry and within our communities,” said Paula Davis, President, Alcoa Foundation.

“This [global] research will be used as a tool to rally communities and thought leaders into action. Alcoa sustainability experts and volunteers will also work with our partners and communities to ensure that the research is used to inform public on corporate policy, new technologies, and methodologies that can be adapted and replicated by others.”

“Our vision is that the results of the Advancing Sustainability Research initiative will lead to widespread adoption of best practices in areas such as water management, energy production and carbon emissions that are critical to conservation,” said Ms Davis.

Read about our Western Australia research project with Greening Australia.

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Native vegetation biomass samples arranged for drying.

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