Energy33 develops biomass power project in Argentina

By Energy33 | February 22, 2018

Energy33, a U.S.-based energy project developer, recently developed and structured a 19 MW biomass power project in Argentina for Genneia, the largest renewable generation company in Argentina.  Genneia was awarded the 19 MW biomass contract developed by energy33 in the second renewable energy auction held in Argentina in December 2017. The energy will be sold to CAMMESA, the off-taker and system operator in Argentina, over a 20-year contract term. Genneia will invest $49 million to build the 19 MW power plant.  Ingenio La Florida, one of the largest ethanol producers in Argentina, will supply the biomass fuel and lease the land to Genneia. The project is expected to be operational in 2020.

The project solves a major environmental problem in Argentina because it produces electricity by utilizing boilers that produce steam from a fuel mix of vinasse and bagasse, which is sent to a steam turbine to generate electricity. Bagasse is the fibrous material produced after sugar cane is crushed and is the typical fuel used by the sugar industry to produce power and steam. Vinasse is the final by-product of ethanol production and for every 1 liter of ethanol, 10 to 13 liters of vinasse are produced.

This project will use the vinasse as fuel which is currently the main bottleneck of ethanol production.  According to Jose Coronel, the General Manager of Ingenio La Florida, "This project is incredibly important to the Argentine ethanol industry because it will allow us to increase ethanol production without affecting the environment.  We are very excited that energy33 found the solution to the vinasse problem and we are ready to work with energy33 and Genneia to make this project a success."

When compared to other forms of renewable generation, biomass has several advantages. Biomass power plants have annual availability factors of 85 percent or more, compared to solar and wind that have availability factors ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent. This means the utility and its customers can rely on the power generated from this plant, which is not always possible with wind and solar plants. Furthermore, carbon emitted from burning of the vinasse/bagasse mix will be captured by the sugarcane plant to produce oxygen during the photosynthesis process.  In addition, the increase of production of ethanol that is mixed with gasoline reduces Argentina's reliance on fossil fuels. Finally, the sugar and ethanol industries employ tens of thousands of workers, and this project will support additional investment and growth in the ethanol industry, which will require additional workers to support the new investment.

According to Jose Benitez, energy33's executive vice president of engineering responsible for the conceptual engineering of the project, "We are very proud to work with great partners like Genneia, a world class power generator and the largest renewable company in Argentina, and Ingenio La Florida, one of the largest ethanol producers in Argentina, to develop a green energy project that will make such a positive environmental impact to both the energy and ethanol industries in the country."

According to Alfredo Bernardi, Genneia's institutional relations and sustainability manager, "This project represents a new opportunity for Genneia to develop a new segment of renewable energy projects and continue as the company leading the development of environmentally sustainable energy projects in Argentina."