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How Mauritius Is Turning Sugar Cane into Renewable Energy

10 Dec 10:00 by Steve Walia

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The location of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean means that it is forced to have a high degree of self-sufficiency, and now it is moving away from its reliance on fossil fuels by leverage one of its primary cash crops - sugar cane - to make clean and green renewable energy.

Scientists have found that the waste products left from processing sugar cane - the tips and stalks - leave behind a fibrous and dry material which is called bagasse. This can be burned to power turbines and to produce electricity.

Sugar-cane-derived energy now produces around 14pc of the island's total energy needs. When weighed up with other forms of renewable power such as wind, solar and hydro, almost a quarter of the population's needs are being met through these clean technologies.

The government now plans to grow the use of renewable technologies to 35pc of the island's total electricity needs by 2025. To help achieve this goal, two wind farms and eleven solar farms will be in place by next year. The largest share of renewable power will be produced by independent developers of sugar cane.

Mauritius has four main sugar businesses which have their own thermal power stations to produce electricity. These plants use coal to operate until the harvest produces by-products from sugar cane. By the end of November, the harvest sends 8,500 tonnes of sugar cane to the facility, totalling around 900,000 tonnes annually.

The sugar cane is crushed and the juice is taken to produce sugar. The stalks are then soaked and dried by heating. Once dried, they are compressed and fed into the thermal power station to be burned at extremely high temperatures, fuelling turbines that generate electricity for the grid.