Sugar beets: the new energy frontier.
In Italy they represent a potential of 60-80 MW of both electric and heat power.
The ambitious project of the Associazione Nazionale Bieticoltori (National Association of Beet Growers): 8 biogas plants of 1 MW each in the Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions within the current year.
Bioenergy Italy (Cremona, March 15-17, 2012) will be a pioneering exhibition with a special area to discover how to use sugar beets for energy purposes.
Three thousand associated beet producers, who cultivate about 10-15 thousand hectares of beet which generate from 90 to 140 thousand tonnes of beet pulp corresponding to 60-80 MW of electric and heat power. These few data are important to understand the energy potential of sugar beets.
“The 2006 reform of the sugar CMO– says Mario guidi, president of the National Association of Beet Growers (ANB) – has led to the closure of many sugar factories, they passed from 19 to 4 factories”. For this reason, starting from 2011, with the suspension of temporary support measures (national and EU financial aids), the ANB has found alternative ways to avoid even worse consequences for beet producers.
Biogas seems to be the winning choice. “ The studies recently commissioned by our association” explains the ANB director general, Michele Distefano “highlighted that beet pulp is suitable for anaerobic digestion. If we consider that by delivering beet pulp to biogas plants beet producers would earn €5.9 per tonne of beet against a profit of €1.6/tonne in case of renounce, everything adds up.”
“In this context “ adds Mr.Guidi “ the ANB started an ambitious project: the realization of 8 biogas plants of 1 MW each in the Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions that will be built within the end of the year by the ANB Biogas, a cooperative society specifically created to produce energy from the beet pulp delivered by associated beet growers”.
Furthermore, we have to think that beet pulp is not an energy crop but only a sugar by-product used for energy purposes, which means that it will not cause a reduction of cultivated land for food production purposes. Since about three years, ANB, in cooperation with Beta (The Italian Society for experimental research in agriculture), is also carrying out other research programmes for the use of the whole plant.”We are obtaining encouraging results in Germany – they say from the technical office – where the sugarbeet is the second energy crop. If everything goes as planned this project will be an interesting opportunity for the agricultural areas excluded by the sugar supply chain”.
Another initiative, which is something completely new among the exhibitions specialized in the agroenergy sector and it is again realized in cooperation with Beta, is a special area created within Bioenergy Italy (Cremona, March 15 to 17) where professionals will have the opportunity to discover with real examples the different solutions to produce energy from sugarbeets.
Processing, storage, removal of agricultural residues and separation from stones are all new topics which are still little known and can open new business channels for all the agricultural companies of the sector.