A world-first trial in Far North Queensland is seeing blue agave, a plant native to Mexico used to produce tequila, being used to generate green energy.
MSF Sugar, the sugar company trialling the agave, plans to burn it to generate power and produce ethanol biofuels. The plant was chosen because it could grow on land that doesn’t need irrigation, produces a huge amount of biomass and ethanol can be made from it.
According to ABC’s Landline, MSF Sugar’s Atherton Tablelands mill is undergoing a $75 million green energy power plant expansion.
The mill currently generates most of its own energy required to produce sugar by burning the pulpy residue of crushed cane, and puts what it doesn’t use back into the grid.
Related article: Monash leads universities with microgrid trial
The plan with the blue agave is to burn the plant to generate power, meaning the plant could produce power year-round, as opposed to its current state where it only generates power during the sugar cane crop season.
MSF Sugar’s business development manager Hywel Cook says the company also want to use the agave for biofuel.
“We want to separate the useful parts of the agave plant, so we want to separate the fermentable juice, we want to separate the fibre and we want to separate the waxes as well,” he says.
The agave crops can take up to seven years from planting to harvest, with the first crop of 2500 agave plants sourced from Mexico planted at MSF Sugar’s Atherton Tablelands property in 2017.
By November, the company aims to have 50,000 plants in the ground.
Related article: Shell expands natural gas projects in Queensland