Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2023. 5:02 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: Since making Belize their home, Santander Sugar Factory has not only been producing quality sugar for export to the international market but has also been powering Belize’s national electricity grid with renewable energy.
According to Cayetano Acosta, head of the electrical, maintenance, and generation department at Santander Farms, the company has a total generation capacity of 15.5 megawatts of power per hour, of which half of that amount is used to power its mills and machinery, while the other half is used to feed into the national grid. Acosta says that in total the company produces roughly around 30 thousand megawatts of electricity each year, which is more than sufficient to sustain both.
In explaining that process Acosta indicated, ‘’At Santander, we produce renewable energy from biomass. The biomass in this case is what we refer to as the bagasse which is the fiber after the sugar cane has been thrashed to remove the juice. That is recycled and used as a broiler fuel which burns at a certain degree to produce steam which is then either converted into electricity or used as heat in the factory to power our onsite machinery.’’
But even as the company’s harvest area keeps increasing by acres almost every year, Acosta explained that while that will create more biomass, it will not create more energy. He explained that more biomasses will just translate into an extended period of generation rather than an increase in outputs. According to him, while the harvest season is mainly used to produce sugar, for his department, they aim to collect and store bagasse to not only produce the required amount of energy needed but also to save for the start-up of the crop season for the following year.
This entire process according to Acosta is the company’s way of being as self-sufficient as possible, ‘’Well being able to generate our energy reduces our dependability on an external power source, and that way in the event of any power outages or natural disasters we are self-sufficient. It also helps with the cost because we are getting this by producing our energy by using a by-product of the process, so we don’t have to pay for the cost incurred if we were to be importing that from the grid.’’
While this should also translate into lower costs for Belizeans as well, Acosta says that that aspect is left up to the electricity company and by extension the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). One thing that is certain according to Acosta is that it creates more jobs for Belizeans since only qualified persons are needed to operate the various pieces of equipment.
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