Bioenergy South America Goes Green with Bioenergy

Author / Editor: Aguinaldo Ramalho / Dominik Stephan

South American countries still have development potential in the fields of biogas technology and renewable energies. The German biogas plant manufacturer Weltec Biopower knows the potential, experiences and opportunities that exist in South America in this area.

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The bioenergy plant is effective as it embraces several sectors and is suitable for many industries
The bioenergy plant is effective as it embraces several sectors and is suitable for many industries
(Picture: Weltec Biopower)

The framework conditions are good in many South American countries such as Brazil. The plant technology employed in agriculture and for the industrial fermentation of sugarcane to ethanol is highly developed and expertise is available in this subject area.

Yet, many are still unaware of the possibility of using the leftovers of this process for energy production. In terms of the substrates, the preconditions are promising. Brazil with its population of almost 200 million is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of bioethanol.

Apart from the leftovers from this process, the waste industry also offers an enormous potential. This year, a new waste law entered into force in Brazil. The purpose of this law is to increase the proportion of waste that is recycled, utilized and duly disposed of.

The agricultural industry in southern Brazil also offers a huge amount of input substances. All these substrates—most of which have not been used so far—offer ideal preconditions for the generation of energy in anaerobic biogas digesters.

These Factors Obstruct the Bioenergy Boom

Owing to the lack of knowledge of the advantages of bioenergy, a green conscience, i.e., a kind of applied environmental conservation and an inclination towards promising energy concepts have not yet taken root. Perhaps, the pressure to act is not yet high enough. Another reason why investors are reluctant in many South American countries is the high inflation rate. With an inflation rate of almost six per cent in 2013, Brazil has surpassed the ceiling of 4.5 per cent that had been set by the central bank.

Even a base interest rate of 11 per cent has not been able to restore the trust of the investors so far. To be attractive, the plants would have to pay off in as little as about five years—an unrealistically short period.

Exemplary Uruguay: A Reference for Bio–Power?

In 2013, Weltec built the first development stage of a 3 MW plant in Uruguay. This plant could serve as a reference project for South America. Decentralized energy production supplies rural area not only with electricity and heat, but also creates jobs and regional value chains. If such projects catch on, they can also serve as a business, energy and development policy instrument. Power generation from bioenergy is especially effective because it embraces several sectors and is suitable for many industries.