In a bid to address the energy shortage affecting the country, GSR Energy Limited (GSR) fully developed a project, a sugarcane bio-electricity plant and a bio-ethanol distillery in Belize, which will produce electricity for domestic use and ethanol for export.

Belize boasts an excellent electrification rate with the national grid reaching 90% of its population. However the country is highly dependent on Mexico to meet their energy needs – with up to 75% of dispatchable electricity being imported. GSR’s mission is to build and operate the most energy efficient and cost effective bio-refinery possible which will relieve Belize of this energy dependency and help secure the electricity grid.

By creating an energy efficient bio-refinery, GSR will have the means to produce 25.4 MW (203 GWh) per year of dispatchable electricity (88% of the electricity currently being supplied from Mexico) and 30.8 million gallons of ethanol per year, a percentage of which will be used for sale in the export market, whilst the electricity would be sold to the national grid for a much lower and more stable price than the customers currently pay.

To ensure they have enough sugarcane to use as a raw material to fuel the plant, GSR is working with the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) and sugarcane seedling developers who have agreed to provide seedlings to local farmers. GSR will then buy the sugarcane grown by these farmers for use in their bio-refinery, creating job opportunities in the area. Local farmers own sufficient land and will utilize the best sugarcane management practices to maintain and manage the demand with a 5-year ratoon (replanting) cycle so as not to impoverish the land.

Farmers within the Mennonite community in Belize have set up a co-op and expressed intent in participating in the project by planting and selling the sugarcane to GSR. Their proposal is to partner with GSR and to plant 40,000 acres of sugarcane for the project. In addition GSR has partnered with a Brazilian Engineering Firm, Uni-Systems do Brazil, for the design, Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) and operations of the Bio-Refinery.

Since winning the IDEAS2 Energy Innovation Contest, GSR has used the grant funds to carry out 12 pre-construction optimization studies for both the bio-refinery and the supply chain. They include; identification of the best site for connection to the Central American Grid, expected electricity demand, the best options and conditions for selling the ethanol as well as the supply chain management and logistics issues involved in executing this Project. Additional growth opportunities were also identified, and as a result, the bio-refinery has been designed and will be built to allow for optimum growth and expansion.

GVEP has been providing GSR with business and strategic support to make the project bankable. Preliminary discussions have already taken place between GSR and some potential regional and international investors.

‘This project will make a huge difference to the communities in Belize, as well as creating stable income for farmers involved in the sugar cane supply chain. The provision of electricity at a lower rate than many currently have to pay will have a significant impact on household budgets.’ Explains Leighton Waterman, County Manager, GVEP Caribbean.

GSR’s Belize Bio-Refinery Project was selected as one of the top three projects at the CAFCEF Finals on October 22, 2014 in Antigua, Guatemala.

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