ARDA News Review: Cocoa as a Source of Clean Energy

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ARDA News Review: Cocoa as a Source of Clean Energy

When we think about the cocoa plant, the first thought that is likely to come to mind is chocolate and its many associated products: cocoa powder, chocolate flavourings and even cocoa butter. It is hard to imagine that the cocoa plant could also serve as a solution to one of the world’s biggest ongoing problems – the energy crisis.

Backed by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), Ivory Coast – which is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa and its by-products – has announced plans to begin generating additional energy from cocoa shells by the year 2020. In keeping with this, the country plans to build a 60 to 70 megawatt (MW) capacity biomass power generation plant, running on cocoa shells and other by-products. This should keep them in line to produce 424 MW of biomass-generated power by 2030.

Unlike many other sub-Saharan countries, Ivory Coast has a reliable power supply, and even exports power to neighbouring countries such as Togo, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso, with plans to extend its grid to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. However, with rising domestic power consumption in the country, there is mounting pressure to increase power production. Coupled with the fact that thousands of tons of cocoa pods are discarded annually by Ivory Coast the project would serve as a perfect means of recycling them.

A similar project was carried out in the United States. Lindt, the chocolate making company, partnered with the Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) in 2009 to burn the leftover cocoa shells from the chocolate making process in order to generate electricity using one of three 50 MW boilers at PSNH’s Schiller Station power plant in Portsmouth. The project had a successful pilot, which led to the cocoa bean shells being slated as a supplementary power source for New Hampshire on a more permanent basis.

The USTDA has invested a million dollars in feasibility studies for the cocoa power project in Ivory Coast, which should be completed by April, 2019. If successful, the country aims to increase their power production from the current 2,275 MW to 4,000 MW by 2020, as well as developing 424 MW of biomass power generation capacity by 2030.

It is sad that the Nigerian cocoa industry is slowly declining and becoming moribund.  Who knows, we could have used the discards as an alternative source of clean power in the country.  The farmers would have had another potential customer in electricity generation and distribution companies.

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