Sugar Cane, A Natural Way To Power Your Home
Growing Sugar Cane
Sugar cane is a tropical perennial grass grown on the east coast of Queensland and in northern New South Wales. Typically, it grows to 2-4 metres high, with the cane stalk about 5cm in diameter. Sugar cane thrives on abundant sunshine, fertile soil and consistent rainfall.
Like all grasses, sugar cane has green leaves, a stalk and roots to collect sunlight, moisture and carbon dioxide. As it grows, it converts sunlight into energy, which is stored inside the plant as a sweet juice containing sugar, and as fibre.
Harvesting Sugar Cane
When mature sugar cane is harvested, which typically happens between June and November in Australia, a mechanical harvester removes the leafy tops of the cane stalks, cuts the stalks off at ground level and then chops the cane into 20-25cm lengths, called billets. The billets are then transported to the nearest sugar mill for processing, which usually occurs within 24hrs of harvesting.
Milling Sugar Cane
At the sugar mill, the billets are fed into large milling units and crushed by a series of rollers. This process produces a number of products:
- Sugar juice - which is pumped away for further processing to create raw sugar, and later refined to make CSR sugar
- Bagasse (ba-gas) – the fibrous material left-over after the juice has been extracted from the cane billet. This by-product is used tocreate renewable energy and electricity
- Molasses – a further by-product of the sugar milling process, which can be used to produce bio-ethanol fuel, an alternative to petrol
Sugarcane Renewable Electricity
While sugar cane is traditionally grown and processed for its sugar content, the milling process also generates large amounts of bagasse. For every 3 tonnes of sugar cane processed, about 1 tonnes of bagasse (a biomass) is produced.
Bagasse (an eligible renewable resource) is the primary fuel source at each of our sugar mills. To make renewable electricity at the sugar mills, bagasse is burned at high temperatures in large boilers which heat up water turning it into steam, which then fuels a turbine that generates electricity. Any surplus electricity generated above the sugar mill’s own requirement is exported into the national electricity grid.
Sugar Cane Electricity and the Environment
Bagasse is a renewable plentiful fuel source which becomes readily available every sugar cane crushing season, as part of the sugar milling process. The use of bagasse for the generation of electricity is an efficient and environmentally friendly way to consume what would otherwise be a waste product.
The temperatures at which bagasse is burned, up to 800 degrees celsius, means that almost all of the bagasse is consumed, consequently there are minimal particles released into the air during energy production. This makes sugar cane energy both a renewable and cleaner source of energy verses traditional electricity production processes.
Sugar Cane Electricity Availability
Within the network, there is a total cogeneration capacity of 198 megawatts, this makes us the Australia’s largest producer of renewable energy from bagasse.
About 75 megawatts of this power is used in the sugar mills, with the surplus amount exported to the Queensland power grid. The exported volume is enough to power about 60,000 homes each year (based on 6.3 megawatts consumption per household per year)*.
*source QCA median house hold use – 2013
Purchasing Sugar Cane Electricity
If you would like to purchase renewable sugar cane energy, CSR has partnered exclusively with Powershop, visit secure.powershop.com.au/promo/csrsugar for more details. Please note that you are only able to purchase renewable sugar cane energy if you are a business or resident in Victoria. We will update you if Powershop moves into other states in the future