The expansion of renewable energy will be critical to our collective success in responding to climate change. Using renewable, plant-based feedstock to produce energy reduces net greenhouse gas emissions by re-circulating carbon rather than extracting it from ancient sources like coal and oil. MSF Sugar's Biorefinery Project on the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland is diversifying into crops like the desert-adapted blue agave from Mexico, suited to a drier and hotter climate, which shows vision from a company planning for a future climate. Blue agave will also be harvested in the sugarcane off-season, establishing year-round supply to the biorefinery to increase use of infrastructure; improve financial viability; provide year-round jobs across agriculture, energy and biofutures; and provide a continuous supply of base-load power.
The Queensland Government is supporting the project through the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning’s Biofutures Acceleration Program (BAP). A feasibility study will consider all processes related to farming the new agave crop, making the biomass products (ethanol and electricity) and delivering the end products to market. Once fully operational, MSF Sugar estimates it could generate 80 construction and farming jobs and a further 50 operational jobs, and produce 110 000 tonnes of raw sugar, 24 MW of renewable electricity for the grid, and 55 ML of ethanol biofuel annually.
Long-term investments like this are critical to rural communities and regional economies by increasing resilience, providing jobs, and contributing to regional prosperity.
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