Australian consultant in controversial, 'unusually large' 2003 firebreak now lobbying for wood bioenergy plant for East Gippsland; touts 50,000 tonnes/year power plant to utilize low-grade wood

LOS ANGELES , September 27, 2011 () – Australian timber industry consultant Gary Squires, recently involved in a controversial firebreak, is working to persuade the state of Victoria to build a wood-burning power plant using low-grade timber from native forests, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Sept. 27.

Squires has urged Ted Baillieu, premier of Victoria state, to set up a taskforce to find with ways to transform East Gippsland's timber industry.

A wood-fueled power plant would use at least 50,000 tonnes/year of wood a year, in a project that would help VicForests and protect jobs, Squires said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

VicForests, which is struggling to find markets, said in its annual report that it had completed a feasibility study on such a project, with potential biomass customers.

Wood material from forest thinning, mill byproducts and increased use of lower-grade wood offers potential for renewable energy production, including biogas and briquettes, said Squires, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Wildfires and the increasing size of national parks means the East Gippsland timber industry faces a lack of high-quality logs, Squires wrote to Baillieu last month in briefing notes obtained by BusinessDay.

Squires was formerly the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) forestry manager, and participated in the planning of an East Gippsland firebreak during the 2003 wildfire season, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

After high-value trees were removed from public land and taken to area sawmills, the DSE and the auditor-general investigated the firebreak. The fire control line, usually 10 meters wide, was 53 meters wide, found then-Auditor-General Wayne Cameron in 2004.

The primary source of this article is the Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 27, 2011.

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