Queensland sugar producer MSF Sugar has announced a $75 biofuels project to be built in the Tablelands region inland from Cairns.
The project will use a sugarcane byproduct called bagasse to produce 24 megawatts of electricity – enough to power every home on the Tablelands.
Construction is expected to start in May next year and will create about 80 jobs as well as opportunities for local firms and contractors, with completion pegged for June, 2018.
MSF Sugar chief executive Mike Barry described the project as a significant confidence booster for both the region and sugar industry.
“This is the first of hopefully four green power stations to be built by MSF Sugar, with the others in the early stages of planning for construction at our sugar mills at Mulgrave near Cairns, South Johnstone near Innisfail and Maryborough,” he told local media.
“The go-ahead for the remaining three green power stations will depend on the success of the Tablelands project as well as stability in the relevant legislation.”
Fraser Coast environmental groups, however, have expressed concern about extra sediment and nutrient runoff.
As part of the MSF expansion, the company could lease two parcels of land near Maryborough and use them for cane crops, taking MSF’s Maryborough Mill to one million tonnes of throughput per year.
President of the Wide Bay Burnett Environment Council, Roger Currie, told the ABC he believed there would be a significant increase in the amount of sediment and nutrient runoff going into the Mary River.
“Our concern is that the clearing of that 4,000 hectares for sugar or biofuels production is going to have Great Barrier Reef impacts,” he said.