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Sugar Can Make Electricity?

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

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62 comments

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9:30PM PST on Feb 18, 2014

Noted

8:49AM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

Encouraging news.

7:38PM PDT on May 31, 2011

wow this is great, especcially since it doesn't acctually use up the food soruce unlike using sunflower for gas or so on.

5:48AM PST on Jan 12, 2011

Not only electricity. Moonshine too. :-)

4:00PM PST on Nov 28, 2010

An real advantage of bagasse is that it is residue from a food crop, not the food itself, unlike growing corn and soy for biofuels, which then reduces the amount of food available. Bagasse is a waste product and is usually burned to get rid of it. This way it makes energy at the same time. Bagasse is also appearing in "paper" plates, bowls, etc., which would ordinarily require the cutting down of trees.

4:56AM PST on Nov 28, 2010

Some sugar companies are not very reputable with being eco friendly so remember that.

5:57AM PDT on Sep 1, 2010

what else are we gonna hear!

6:14AM PDT on Aug 29, 2010

thats great idea

1:03PM PDT on Aug 10, 2010

when food is grown for biofuels, there aren't any regulations deterring farmers from using farming tactics that are unsafe for the environment because it is not being consumed by humans, whereas farmers have to make sure chemical levels are safe for human intake. However, farmers burn rainforests, genetically modify plants, and add lots of chemical fertilizers to enhance crop growth.

In addition, the energy put into growing crops for biofuels should be diverted to producing food because of the food crisis.

4:36AM PDT on Aug 1, 2010

:)

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