Sugar Can Make Electricity?
It’s not exactly sugar juice, but the sugar cane fiber left over after the juice is extracted, which is burned to make electricity. The fiber is called bagasse, and is being used in cogeneration power plants. Once it dries, it is burned in boilers to make steam. The steam is used to create electricity. Emissions from burning bagasse are lower than for burning fossil fuels.
In Florida, a sugar mill facility called Florida Crystals powers their business operation and 60,000 homes with electricity generated from burning bagasse (and wood waste when it is not sugar cane season). The reason sugar cane can be used to make sugar and generate electricity is that it is very efficient in converting sunlight into energy. The company estimates it saves hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emissions by burning bagasse to run their facility, rather than fossil fuels. They are one of the largest sugar producers in the U.S., and run the largest biomass plant in North America.
Sugar cane production is a large industry in Brazil, and they use bagasse power plants to provide about 3 percent of their electrical consumption. An estimate has stated that number could be increased to 15 percent by 2020.
Just last February, a deal was struck to begin construction of a 40 megawatt bagasse fueled power plant in Brazil. Other countries are using sugar cane fiber also. Kenya reportedly has the potential of producing 300 megawatts of electricity from bagasse. Currently they are producing 38MW.
A megawatt is one million watts. One megawatt could power between 400 and 900 homes depending on consumption rates.
Image Credit: Parrhestiastes