His Excellency Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, inspects Sunbird Bioenergy’s renewable energy project that is located in the Bombali District of Sierra Leone.
COO, Subhash Abeywickrama welcomed the delegation and provided a detailed tour, starting with the control centre. The President was able to witness first hand that Sunbird Bioenergy has the capacity to export 32MW of renewable power into the national grid and contribute directly to the supply of electricity in Freetown.
Sunbird Bioenergy Sierra Leone comprises of a 23,500 Ha agricultural estate, a 32 MW biomass power plant and a distillery that can produce 85 million litres of bioethanol and ENA per year. The company is the largest agricultural investor in the country and largest employer in the region.
His excellency took particular interest in the production of renewable electricity. Subhash explained how the harvested sugarcane is crushed and the juice is used to produce bioethanol which is used as a low-carbon transportation fuel, and the waste biomass or bagasse is converted into renewable electricity in our 32 MW biomass power plant.
The power plant operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and supports thousands of jobs in the agricultural sector and adds value to the wider economy by supplying reliable low-cost power. More importantly, it reduces the importation of HFO and diesel fuel which both saves valuable currency reserves for the country and reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
A key objective of President Bio’s administration is to increase the production capacity of electricity within Sierra Leone. The country only has 99.6MW of installed capacity to support a population 7 million people, and currently only 15% of the population have access to power. Furthermore, World Bank data indicates that only 2.5% of the rural population have access to electricity, compared to 42% across Sub Saharan Africa. Sierra Leone, with its biomass, solar and hydro resources has the ability to become one of the first African countries to be powered solely by renewable energy.
Currently the company has planted approximately 6,000 Ha of sugarcane on the estate and in 2021 expects to expand to a minimum of 10,000 Ha. The company also envisages using cassava as a secondary feedstock, which will also create economic opportunities for local out-growers.
The inspection took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face masks were worn by all participants and ethanol hand sanitizer produced by the company was regularly applied.