A $75 million green power station will be built at a far north Queensland sugar mill, producing enough electricity to power every house on the Atherton Tablelands.
MSF Sugar, Australia’s largest sugar cane grower, says it will start construction on the project – one of the largest investments in agriculture in recent years – at its Tableland Mill, Arriga, near Mareeba, in May next year, for a June 2018 completion.
The company’s chief executive officer Mike Barry said there were plans to roll out similar projects at MSF’s three other mills, South Johnstone, Mulgrave and Maryborough.
“The go-ahead for the remaining three green power stations will depend on the success of the Tableland project as well as stability in the relevant legislation,” Mr Barry said.
“If all four green power stations are completed it will equate to approximately 100 megawatts of renewable power generation capacity and a capital spend of around $500 million.
“Building this renewable power station is the next step in our long term vision to transition our industry towards producing a range of higher value products, moving away from mills that produce solely raw sugar.”
The Tableland power station will use a renewable sugar cane fibre known as bagasse, to produce 24 megawatts of electricity.
Bagasse, a natural cellulose fibre found in sugarcane, is used to power boilers that produce steam under high pressure. This steam is used to power turbo-alternators that produce electricity – much like those found in hydroelectric power plants.
The Tableland Mill was chosen as the first of MSF’s sugar mills because it is easy to connect to the Ergon network, has large surplus of bagasse and good site access
MSF expects to have sufficient bagasse to run for around 8 to 9 months of the year and will look to extend to 11 months with other feedstocks.
The project will create around 80 jobs during the construction phase, with some $40m expected to be spent on locally sourced labour and materials.
State-of-the-art boiler and emissions reduction technology will be used.
The project will increase the total revenue from the business by producing electricity as well as raw sugar. The electricity will be sold in to the local power grid.
MSF says it will use new state-of-the-art boiler and emissions reduction technology, with no increase in emissions. Waste from the power generation process will be recycled back on to company cane farms, adjacent to the sugar mill.
Far north Queensland is a hub for renewable energy, with $1 billion worth of projects underway or proposed across the Tablelands, Cape York and Gulf Savannah regions.