Previously, this blog relayed word from the Biopact team about a thermoelectric power plant to be built in Sao Desiderio in the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. Dedini, an industrial company better known for building sugar mills and distilleries, will use elephant grass as the feedstock rather than bagasse, the waste biomass from sugar cane.
The Biopact team now informs us that EPE (Empresa de Pesquisa Energética), the country’s energy administration agency, is registering green power producers that are interested in selling their excess electricity. To register, the applicant must be generating “green power”, i.e., from agricultural residues such as bagasse.
Brazilian sugar cane farmers have recognized the economic benefit of such waste to energy for some time. In addition to operating biomass-fueled, steam-generated electric power plants to provide electricity for sugar production, heat that is generated from combustion of the biomass can be be utilized in the fermentation process. Such use of biomass improves the environmental impact of ethanol as an alternate transportation fuel.
The Brazilian federal government wants to make Brazil more energy secure and wants a substantial amount of the energy to come from renewable energy sources. Biomass-fueled electric power generation meets their requirement for a ‘Green Reserve’ with which to face potential future electricity shortages.
Indeed, the Brazilian agricultural agency has begun a voluntary program, inviting sugar plant operators to eliminate the practice of burning sugarcane leaves before harvest cycles and to invest in methods of harvesting the biomass as fuel. And now, EPE is promising to buy and distribute the electricity from companies that produce heat and power for their own processes and feed excess power into the grid because it creates a ‘Green Reserve’.
So far, EPE has registered 118 companies. The electricity generating capacity “available as the Green Reserve equals an output comparable to that of around 5 nuclear power plants.” Sugar and ethanol factories in São Paulo state (south-central Brazil) represent the most capacity; 64 plants with an excess capacity of 4.18GW have enrolled for the auction. Co-generation plants in Goias (1.66GW) and Minas Gerais (834MW) complete the list of the top 3 states for biomass-fueled electric power generation.