Redbank power station aims to reopen using biomass to generate electricity

Redbank power station
Redbank power station

The conversion of the Redbank power station at Warkworth, near Singleton from thermal coal to biomass appears to gained endorsement from the local Federal member Joel Fitzgibbon.

"This is an exciting project in support of the economy of the Hunter Valley. The additional 200 jobs during the conversion and re-commissioning phase of the power station, plus the 50 permanent operational jobs when the power station is re-commissioned will be most welcome," said Mr Fitzgibbon.

"Plus of course there will be multiple jobs related to the logistics and transport of the close to a million tons a year of waste wood biomass that will provide the feedstock for this baseload power station."

Redbank hasn't produced any power since October 2014 when the plant closed leaving 39 full-time employees out of work and was placed in the hands of receivers Korda Mentha.

The station's owners Hunter Energy now have plans to use timber to fuel their facility much to the dismay of conservationists and The Greens candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election Sue Abbott.

Mrs Abbott said she was completely opposed to such a project saying wind, solar, pumped hydro and batteries are the cheapest and cleanest energy source and that's what should be developed not an unsustainable biomass power station.

According to Hunter Energy Redbank biomass power station will support the Hunter Valley's transition from a focus on thermal coal making a substantial contribution to the renewable baseload power needs of NSW, plus in addition will utilise wood waste that would otherwise finish up in landfill.

"The project will also provide a valuable boost to the regional forest-based industry and local sawmills by offering an approved market for their wood processing residues. The project has my wholehearted support and I wish it well," said Mr Fitzgibbon.

Hunter Energy executive forester John Halkett said the conversion of the Redbank to a biomass baseload facility was a major development in the Hunter Valley, with a wide range of economic and environmental benefits.

"These benefits include doing something meaningful and tangible in relation to tackling climate change; utilising wood waste that would otherwise finish up in landfill, and providing much needed base load renewable energy."

"Also, of course, providing jobs and regional business stimulus to support the economy of the Hunter Valley and surrounding areas, he said."

A protest held at the Redbank power station in March 2021.

A protest held at the Redbank power station in March 2021.

Joel Fitzgibbon's claim that burning over a million tonnes of NSW's native forests in the Hunter to generate electricity will benefit air, ecosystems and mitigate climate change is greenwashing in its purest form, the Redbank Action Group (RAG) said.

"This is our valley's transition nightmare," said RAG spokesperson David Burgess. "At a time when the best minds in the Hunter are coming together to negotiate a difficult path beyond coal, the last thing we need is a Trojan horse of fake forest logging jobs masquerading as green energy."

"There is no way any maths in the world adds up to this being renewable. On the face of it, and in the wake of enormous pressure on the EU and the USA to cease and desist, Hunter Energy seems to be claiming that it has purchased a sawmill in Millfield and turned it into a woodchip mill bigger than Eden," Mr Burgess said.

"A double-handling of truck movements and the burning of so-called 'residue' or 'forest waste' at Redbank is a method that's more polluting than coal."