The new year will bring a new pilot project to Gay & Robinson, Inc., the island’s sole remaining sugar plantation, at Kaumakani.
The pilot project will test to see if bagasse, a biofuel produced during the processing of field sugarcane that is now burned to generate electricity, can instead be used to produce ethanol.
Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline and burned in automobile engines.
The timing of the test project couldn’t be better for G&R, as its primary destination of bagasse now, the former Lihue Plantation power plant, is scheduled to close down at the end of this year.
Bagasse has been burned to produce electricity on the island for decades, making Kaua’i at one time the state’s leader in percentage of power generated from renewable sources.
Representatives of G&R, including President Alan Kennett, have been meeting with a group of engineers to examine the potential of using bagasse to produce ethanol.
Kennett said the pilot project will begin some time next year.
Currently, bagasse in excess of what G&R can burn in its own plan to generate its own electricity is trucked to Lihu’e, and sold to Amfac, which through the end of the year is operating the former LP power plant.
Buying bagasse from G&R is cheaper than burning diesel oil to produce electricity.
After the new year, G&R will likely burn all the bagasse it produces in its own power plant, Kennett said.