Assessing the viability of Arundo donax as a potential source of green energy for electricity cogeneration in Belize.
Forrest Smartt 1, Leonard Nurse 2, Earl Green 3
1 Climate Change Specialist, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Georgetown, Guyana.
2 Retired Professor, Integrated Coastal Management and Climate Change Adaptation, UWI, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.
3 Project Manager, Arundo donax project, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Belmopan, Belize.
Vol. 3, Issue 2, 2020. DOI: 10.33277/cesare/003.002/04
Wild Cane (Arundo donax) is a perennial rhizomatous grass that is native to tropical and sub-tropical zones. This C3 crop is known to have significant potential to produce commercial grade bioenergy. Belize has conducted a preliminary compatibility test at the American Sugar Refineries/ Belize Sugar Industries, Belize Co-generation Energy Ltd. (ASR/BSI BELCOGEN) facility which produced satisfactory but inconclusive results. The potential of this species as an energy crop is enhanced by its versatility, adaptability and its robustness to climate variability. Further, the crop’s resistance to environmental stresses and its ability to flourish on marginal spaces means that successful propagation will not lead to competition for productive agricultural lands, and potentially consequential negative effects on Belize’s food security. The goal of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of the commercial cultivation of Arundo donax as an alternate fuel source for cogeneration at BELCOGEN in Belize, focusing particularly on biomass yield and the identification of climate and other environmental factors required for optimum growth. In this regard, the research examined three sites comprising natural stands of Arundo donax – Middlesex, Sittee River and Monkey River. The species demonstrated good productivity potential particularly within the Middlesex and Sittee River areas. Biomass yield was estimated at 15.18 t ac-1, 4.76 t ac-1 and 3.45 t ac-1 for Middlesex, Sittee River and Monkey River, respectively. In this study, the main parameters examined were climatic conditions and soil analysis, specifically moisture content, soil type and pH. Different growth patterns were noted at the three sites with the number of stems and extrapolated yield varying from 9.8 t ac-1, 10.45 t ac-1 and 32.02 t ac-1 for Monkey River, Sittee River and Middlesex, respectively. The adaptability of the species to marginal lands, the limited human input needed for its cultivation, and its high biomass yield are factors which make Arundo donax a potentially viable fuel crop.
Arundo donax, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, Belize, Renewable energy, Mitigation