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Sierra Leone Business: Sunbird to invest $10m on Biomass

The management of Sunbird Bioenergy Africa Limited (Sunbird Bioenergy group) has confirmed the company intends to invest ten million United States dollars, which will be used to buy dry elephant grass (biomass) from locals to be used to produce electricity.
Biomass is used to produce heat energy in the process of electricity generation and in this case Sunbird intends to use the dry elephant grass as a supplement to the sugarcane ‘bagasse’ which is ordinarily used in the sugar cane factory to produce energy.
The Transition Director for Sunbird Bioenergy in Sierra Leone, Andrew Gee, has said that because there are not sufficient sugar canes to produce bagasse to supply the required energy, they have contracted 2,500 locals in their operational areas and other out sourced contractors to cut elephant grass and supply to the factory.
Gee said the company needs apparently 200,000 tons of biomass as part of its proactive measures for the production of 100,000 megawatts (2 tons = 1 mega watt) ahead of December. He disclosed that Sunbird is buying a ton of biomass from locals at 50 dollars which according to him is part of their strategy in ensuring the issue of wild fire is addressed in their operational areas.
The Transition Director said the company is aware of the fact that not all locals will be employed but with the biomass project almost everyone stands to benefit something from the operations of the company either as a cutter, shredder, transporter or contractor.
Andrew Gee said in 2017 the company harvested 25,000 tons of bagasse, which was used to supply energy to the Kingtom power station, but they were met with challenges, which led them to use biomass as supplement to the bagasse to produce clean energy. He assured that by 1st December after reaching agreements with government on how much energy to supply they will be in the position to supply at least 10 mega watts to the national grid.
Andrew confirmed that Sunbird plans to expand and be in the position to supply up to 25 mega watt to the national grid. The expansion he said will create room to produce twice the present 32 mega watts. He described Sunbird’s biomass power plant as officially the biggest clean energy producing plant in the world.
One of the local contractors Foday Jalloh who sells biomass to Sunbird said they are paying Le200,000 to local grass cutters every monthly after which, they hire the services of a truck owner for the transportation of the grass to the factory. He said before now he had a large extended family to look after, but with the biomass project, some of his relatives from the rural area are now engaged in cutting the elephant grass.
Jalloh said it is not easy to collect one ton of elephant grass as required by Sunbird but maintain that, they try as best as they can to produce the required amount.
Senior officers from EDSA were contacted for their comment on the available energy from Bumbuna and how prepared they are to receive energy from Sunbird but they were unavailable throughout the past week.
It could be recalled that earlier in October last year ADDAX and Oryx Group (AOG) announced that Sunbird Bioenergy Limited bought a 75.1% ownership of ADDAX Bioenergy (SL) Limited, sugarcane bioenergy and renewable electricity operation in Bombali district.
The sugarcane bioenergy ethanol factory is located at Kontobi in the Makarie Gbanti chiefdom Bombali district. From its 6 mega watt plant, they were supplying 2 megawatts to the national grid.
The Project started in 2008 and includes the development of a Greenfield sugarcane plantation, the construction of an ethanol refinery and a biomass fuel power plant.
Wild fire destroyed the sugar plantation and the new management (Sunbird) have planted a good variety of canes, which will be ready for harvest early December.
By Mohamed Kabba
Monday November 13, 2017.

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