Sugar cane generation a no go, says renewable developer

Sugar cane generation

Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter’s sugar cane waste-to-energy plan – which was promoted as the key to unlocking north Queensland’s future energy supply – is unproductive, according to renewable energy developer Enviro Fibre chairman Les Nielsen.

Mr Nielsen told the Cairns Post Mr Katter’s proposal was “inefficient” and “expensive”, saying “there’s a lot more value in using bagasse for other products than just incinerating it.”

The concept involves employing 16 sugar mills from Mossman to Mackay that would use the bagasse conversion method to generate electricity for the region. The project would involve Queensland government financial support of between $60 and $120 million to convert each of the sugar mills.

However, Mr Nielsen said more superior energy sources exist than the bagasse proposal put forward by Mr Katter.

Mr Nielsen said Enviro Fibre’s development of by-products produced by paper pulp and other biomass materials – which it has worked on with New South Wales-based firm Ethanol Technologies – was a superior alternative to burning sugar cane waste. The company has partnered with the Queensland University of Technology over the past four years to develop the technology, investing between $300,000 and $400,000.

“The technology needs to move with the times and the guys at QUT have certainly been able to prove that,” he said.

“What we need to do is move towards building a pilot plant to prove what our lab tests says we can do.”