We explore how sugar helps to power Queensland

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Sugar might get a bad rap from dentists and doctors, but did you know that Australian sugar mills contribute to the production of electricity that power our homes?

In fact, Wilmar Sugar are Australia’s largest producer of renewable energy from biomass and in 2019 they contributed 7% to Queensland’s renewable electricity generation. That deserves a big round of applause. Not only that, according to Wilmar Cogeneration Energy Manager, Paul Trayner:

  • Wilmar will export about 340,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity into Queensland’s power grid each year, which is enough to power about 74,000 homes for a year
  • The Proserpine Mill generates about 37,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity a year, and exports about 12,400 megawatt hours to the grid each year

How does it work?

The biomass used to create power is called bagasse. Bagasse (also coined ‘nature’s battery’) is the fibre that’s left over after the sugarcane has been crushed to remove its juice. The bagasse is then used as fuel for the boilers at the mills.

“We produce renewable electricity at our mills by burning bagasse in large-scale boilers. This process heats water to create steam. We use the steam at high pressure to drive our turbine and create electricity, and we use the steam at low pressure as heat in the sugar milling process”.

Each year, by harnessing the energy from the steam produced during factory processes, Wilmar Sugar convert the energy in over 5 million tonnes of bagasse into renewable energy.

Bagasse – Nature’s battery

We think Bagasse is pretty impressive for a few reasons:

  • The stored energy in bagasse means Wilmar can generate and export electricity 24/7 throughout the year.
  • One truck load of bagasse stores enough energy to power two Queensland homes for over a year.
  • The energy stored in one stockpile of bagasse at a mill can power 2,000 homes for a year. To put that into context, that’s more electrical energy than 90 of South Australia’s giant lithium batteries.

What does this mean for Queensland communities?

Currently, Wilmar’s eight sugar mills produce about 620,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year. They create enough renewable energy to not only power their mills but to export significant amounts to the Queensland power grid.

Remarkably, each year they export enough electricity to power more than 68,000 Queensland homes for 12 months.

Kudos to Wilmar Sugar for contributing to renewable energy production.