Waste to energy recovery plant touted for Blue Mountains

 Sydney’s rubbish could be powering tens of thousands of homes within just three years if a plan by Energy Australia goes ahead.

In an Australian first, the company plans to build a waste to energy recovery plant at its Mt Piper Power Station in the Blue Mountains after determining that it’s both technically and economically viable – transforming Sydney’s rubbish to provide a reliable baseload power supply without burning any extra coal.

9NEWS was given exclusive and rare access to the Mt Piper power station, near Lithgow, where for the past quarter of a century coal has powered the turbines that provide electricity to 15 percent of the state.

But that could be about to change.

Energy Australia’s head of assets, Julian Turecek, says its plan solves two problems at the same time.

“We’re diverting waste that would otherwise go to landfill and turning it into sustainable energy,” he said.

And burning rubbish to create energy isn’t new, he says.

“We’ll be using the latest technology that’s already deployed across Europe.”

The new furnace and boiler would sit within the same site at Mt Piper (9NEWS)The new furnace and boiler would sit within the same site at Mt Piper (9NEWS)

The idea is to build a furnace that would burn 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable rubbish a year.

That would stoke a new boiler that would produce enough steam to generate power for an extra 40,000 homes.

But the idea is controversial.

A plan by the people behind Dial-A-Dump to build a new, stand-alone waste to energy incinerator at Eastern Creek in Sydney’s west has been met with strong opposition and protests from the local community and environmental groups.

But Energy Australia argues its plan is different. Mt Piper is already designated for power generation. Basically, it’s already plugged into the grid. And the new furnace and boiler would sit within the same site.

“We believe we’ve got a solution because we’re using an existing facility with this Mt Piper Poer Station – so, in a sense, the project’s already half built,” Mr Turecek said.

The local community is yet to be convinced of the plan (9NEWS)The local community is yet to be convinced of the plan (9NEWS)

While coal will still be burnt at the plant, refuse could eventually produce more energy.

The local community is yet to be convinced.

Mount Piper is located within the Cox’s river catchment that feeds into Sydney’s drinking water supply – and that’s certain to be a community sticking point during the Environmental Impact Statement process.

Lithgow’s mayor, Stephen Lesslie, says there may be merit in the plan.

But he’s worried about the potential toxicity of what’s being burnt and the impact of extra trucks on the road.

“Lithgow Council has not been informed or consulted about this at all,” he said.

“Basically, we’re concerned about being treated as a dumping ground for Sydney’s waste.”

Community opposition for a stand-alone waste to energy incinerator in Sydney's west has been met with fierce local opposition (9NEWS)Community opposition for a stand-alone waste to energy incinerator in Sydney’s west has been met with fierce local opposition (9NEWS)

Energy Australia doesn’t need council’s approval because its project is of state significance.

But the company says it’s eager to work with the Blue Mountains community.

“Project’s such as this need to comply with NSW energy from waste policy which is among the strictest, the most stringent, in the world,” Mr Turecek said.

“We’re very confident, based on the technology available, that we’ll be able to develop a plant that meets all of the criteria that the community would expect.”

Energy Australia will now spend the next 12 to 18 months working through any potential environmental impacts from the $160 million project.

If it jumps that hurdle, electricity powered by Sydney’s rubbish could be pumping out of Mt Piper in 2021.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2017