A sugar miller in far north Queensland plans to build a $75 million green power station near Mareeba.

The plant at MSF Sugar’s Tablelands Mill is intended as the first of four, with capital spend of about $500 million.

The power station will use bagasse, a 100% renewable sugarcane fibre, to produce 24MW of electricity – enough to power every house in the Tableland region, it says. The electricity will be sold into the local power grid.

“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 at Maryborough,” said MSF Sugar CEO Mike Barry.

If all four green power stations are completed it will equate to about 100MW of renewable power generation capacity, he said.

Bagasse, a natural cellulose fibre found in sugarcane, is used to power boilers that produce steam under high pressure. This steam is used to power turbo-alternators that produce electricity – much like those found in hydroelectric power plants.

The Tableland Mill was chosen for ease of connection to the Ergon network, but the power plant is unlikely to run uninterrupted.

“We expect to have sufficient bagasse to run for around 8-9 months of the year, but we are looking to extend that to 11 months by using other feedstocks such as cane trash, peanut shell, sawdust wastes and the like,” Barry said.

It expects no increase in emissions from the plant once the project is complete, and waste from the power generation process will be recycled back onto cane farms adjacent to the sugar mill.

The Tableland plant will be the first of a possible four plants at the company’s mills.

“We are in the early planning stages for projects at the other three mills now, and aim to have a project per year finished,” Barry said.

The go-ahead for the remaining three power stations will depend on the success of the Tableland project as well as stability in the relevant legislation, he said.

The Tablelands project will create around 80 jobs during construction, with about $40 million expected to be spent in the local economy. Building is expected to start in May next year with completion around June 2018.

MSF Sugar produces about 550,000 tonnes of raw sugar a year and is a subsidiary of Thailand-based Mitr Phol Sugar Corp Ltd.