The small town of Skipton is embracing the adoption of alternative energy sources to reduce costs and environmental impact.
Ballarat and Skipton Health Service launched the Skipton Hospital straw heating project at a community information session on Wednesday morning.
The health service is working with Pyrenees Shire Council, a group of local farmers and a bioenergy consultant to establish a biomass boiler at its Skipton campus.
This is an opportunity for Beaufort and Skipton Health Services to be a front runner in bioenergy.Darren White, Beaufort and Skipton Health Service
The project will turn farmer's straw waste into a resource to provide hot water and heating for the hospital.
Beaufort and Skipton Health Service corporate services manager Darren White said the details of the project were presented to a full room at the information session, with interest from local members of parliament, local government representatives and members of the Skipton community.
"This is an opportunity for Beaufort and Skipton Health Service to be a front runner in bioenergy," he said.
"Community members are supportive of the reduced emissions and that we are giving back to the community with an alliance with the local farmers."
The Skipton Hospital straw heating project aims to install a multi-fuel boiler that will burn straw pellets sourced from local farmers to heat water which will then be used in hot water radiators throughout the facility.
For the Streathem Straw Alliance, a group of nine farmers in the surrounding region, the bioenergy project will provide an opportunity to convert straw into straw pallets and sell them to Beaufort and Skipton Health Service. Previously the waste straw was usually burnt in paddocks in autumn.
The new Skipton project follows the success of a biomass boiler that has been heating the Beaufort hospital and aged care facility by burning waste wood chips from the local timber mill since 2014.
While the Beaufort project has long generated interest from the local community and further abroad, Mr White said community members at the Skipton information session were interested in discussing further potential to apply bioenergy systems in different settings throughout the region.
"Bioenergy is commonly being used in Europe and in some cases generates enough power for towns and communities," he said.
"This generated conversation about how great that could be for Skipton."
Mr White said small regional communities had potential to be leaders in bioenergy.
"This project is just the tip of the iceberg," he said.
"Other small rural communities and smaller health facilities could follow our lead being more environmentally friendly in terms of emissions, but also using bioenergy as a more cost effective way of generating heating and hot water for health services."
The governing body for the Skipton bioenergy project is now working to select a supplier for the biomass boiler and will appoint a someone to install it by the end of the year.
It is hoped the project will be completed by winter next year, with a project deadline at the end of 2020.
The $315,000 project has received $273,600 funding from the state government, with remaining costs covered by Beaufort and Skipton Health Services.