Abaco Biomass Tech Start-Up Eyes ‘New Dimension’ To Farming

A recent familiarization trip to Abaco found newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Hon. Michael Pintard, reviewing a proposal that may help to ease the power supply woes on that island.

Officials from Dunlap Petroleum, a Bahamian power supply start-up, are hoping to generate up to 24 megawatts of power at a proposed plant in Spring City, Abaco, using bio-mass technology and locally grown elephant grass. If successful, the operations will add a new dimension to farming on that island while at the same time, providing a sustainable form of green energy to supplement the troubled power supply on Abaco.

The project has been on the table for some five years and has garnered significant interest from Bahamas Power & Light, BPL. For Minister Pintard, the potential to increase production of non-food agricultural products, particularly on Abaco, is an intriguing opportunity for the sector, while at the same time, assisting in the country’s energy challenges. Abaco is home to the nation’s only sod and turf farm, 5 Star Farms. A major part of the Ministry’s short term goals is to spark activity in non-food agricultural production throughout the country.

Some 5,600 acres of land, owned by the Bahamas Agriculture & Industrial Corporation, BAIC, has already been secured for the project. The agreement allows Dunlap Petroleum to study the land, water table and to conduct soil tests to determine optimal growth rates for the proposed bio-mass material. Half of the land, or 2,600 acres, is currently under cultivation of elephant grass.

Dunlap representative Adrian Lismore confirmed that the minimum output of 8 megawatts of bio-mass energy is enough to power at least 5,000 homes on Marsh Harbour. Lismore pointed out that while bio-mass energy production is new for The Bahamas, the technology has been a tried and tested option for fuel generation globally and presents a viable option for the Government of The Bahamas to reduce the cost of energy for Bahamians utilizing a renewable source.

Minister Pintard expressed concern about the turn-around time following an initial harvest for the regeneration of crops to sustain the operation. His concerns were addressed by the company’s projection that with 5,000 acres available, at three harvests per year, they would able to operate for a minimum of 15 years before expanding. The company hopes to replicate the operation on other family islands in the future.

The proposed plant, if approved, is expected to significantly impact employment on Abaco, creating jobs not only on the power generation side but also on the farm and could require up to 250 employees. The company expects to be ready within 24 months if given Cabinet approval.

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