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A word from the Intern at CCCCC – Arundo Donax in Belize

Caribbean Climate features another exclusive contribution from Edon Daniels, a Masters Student from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, reading in Natural Resource and Environmental Management, specializing in Climate Change.
Edon Daniels, Master's student at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus

Edon Daniels, Masters Student at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus

This internship at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) has offered me the opportunity to work on the Arundo donax Project (ADP). Arundo donax, commonly referred to as Wild Cane in Belize, has been growing in the wild in Belize for a very long time. Due to the plant’s high energy potential, the Centre is now studying it extensively as a fuel crop and a potential supplement for bagasse for the co-generation of electricity. Currently, Belize generates almost 15% of their electricity from Biomass, the third largest source behind hydro (46%) and Imported Power from Mexico (27%). Both of these sources are proving to be either unreliable or too expensive and are therefore not viable long term energy options. The generation of electricity (25MW) by the BELCOGEN plant is mainly from bagasse, which is a byproduct from the production of sugar. This limits the amount of power that can be generated annually, since the factory operating cycle spans a maximum of seven months. Excess bagasse produced during the grinding season is stock-piled, and is used for power generation for another three months. When the stored bagasse is exhausted, the plant remains idle. A continuous 13.5MW is sold to BEL during the grinding season and 11MW during the out of crop season when bagasse is available.

(A) A. donax flowering plants at maturity, at the end of summer; (B) In winter; (C) Single cane, reaching the height of 8 m; (D) Vegetative propagation by new rhizomes spreading from the old plants; (E) Young shoots sprouting from the nodes.

(A) Arundo donax flowering plants at maturity, at the end of summer; (B) In winter; (C) Single cane, reaching the height of 8 m; (D) Vegetative propagation by new rhizomes spreading from the old plants; (E) Young shoots sprouting from the nodes.

The Arundo donax Project (ADP) was therefore initiated to supplement bagasse for energy production to ensure a continuous supply of electricity to BEL annually. The ADP is not only a favourable long term solution, but also a climate smart solution. The Project will be rolled out over a four-year period involving a Compatibility Testing Phase of the technical feasibility of Arundo donax being burnt in the BELCOGEN boilers, a Field Research Phase of various agronomic parameters, and a Commercial Production Phase. My involvement in the ADP will be during the Compatibility Testing Phase, which will include an assessment of the energy potential and emissions produced from the combustion of the Arundo donax-bagasse mixture and how this will, positively or negatively, impact the climate. If the initial results of the Project prove to be successful and commercial production follows, it will help to boost the resilience of Belize’s energy sector.

Considering my commitment to the field of climate science and the Caribbean, my experience at the CCCCC thus far has been most fruitful and rewarding. It has allowed me to interact with a variety of “bright-minds” in the renewable energy sector both in Belize, the wider Caribbean and elsewhere. It afforded me the opportunity to learn, in a short space of time, many of the idiosyncrasies of project management. Being from Guyana, where sugar is a major contributor to the country’s GDP and where power generation is almost exclusively from imported fossil fuel; this ADP Internship is allow me to amass and hone knowledge, which can be leveraged for use in Belize, my home country and the rest of the Caribbean  to boost our energy resilience.


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