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Feature - Bagasse: recycling crop residue

Feature header image - A photo of a sugar cane crop being harvested by farming machinery. 

Feature

Bagasse: recycling crop residue

One of Australia's pioneering rural industries has been generating and using renewable energy for more than 100 years.

The sugar cane industry has long been recycling crop residue to produce heat and electricity to power its factories. Known as bagasse, this by-product of sugar production is the fibrous material that remains after the cane is crushed to extract the juice.

The waste generated at the sugar mill is used onsite to power the sugar making process. This is a major benefit enabling mills to be self-sufficient in terms of energy generation. They can also sell excess electricity to the grid—most sugar cane mills export up to half of the power they generate from bagasse back into the national energy market.

Bagasse has zero greenhouse gas emission intensity. Using it as an energy source avoids having to transport the waste off-site or leave it to rot and breakdown, resulting in methane emissions.

Under the Renewable Energy Target, 28 renewable power stations are accredited with bagasse as their renewable fuel source, with a combined capacity of 539 megawatts. Most are located in Queensland and have been operating for over 100 years. Many were accredited at the start of the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target in 2001.

Electricity produced from bagasse contributes around five per cent of the large-scale generation certificates validated each year.

The use of bagasse to produce 'green' energy is estimated to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by over 1.5 million tonnes each year.20

Photo acknowledgement: Clean Energy Regulator, sugar cane harvest

Footnotes

20 Australian Sugar Milling Council, Australian Sugarcane Industry Overview, http://asmc.com.au/industry-overview/

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