A Cabinet minister has reviewed a Bahamian start-up's proposal to create up to 250 jobs through an Abaco-based biomass plant that will generate 24 megawatts (MW) of energy.
Michael Pintard, newly-appointed minister of agriculture and marine resources, met with officials from Dunlap Petroleum, which says its proposed elephant grass-fuelled Spring City plant can be ready within 24 months of cabinet approval.
The project has been on the drawing board for five years, with its farming and green energy benefits attracting the attention of Bahamas Power & Light (BPL). Abaco is also home to The Bahamas' only sod and turf farm, 5 Star Farms. A major part of the Ministry's short term goals is to spark activity in non-food agricultural production throughout the country.
Some 5,600 acres of land, owned by the Bahamas Agricultural & Industrial Corporation (BAIC), has already been secured for the Dunlap Petroleum project. The agreement allows the company to study the land and water table, and to conduct soil tests to determine optimal growth rates for the proposed bio-mass material. Just under half the land, or 2,600 acres, is currently being cultivated for elephant grass.
Dunlap's representative, Adrian Lismore, said a minimum eight MW output of bio-mass energy was enough to power at least 5,000 homes on Marsh Harbour. Mr Lismore pointed out that while bio-mass energy production is new for The Bahamas, the technology is a proven option for fuel generation globally and a viable renewable source for lower energy costs.
Mr Pintard expressed concern about the turnaround time, following an initial harvest, for the regeneration of crops to sustain the operation. His concerns were addressed by Dunlap's projection that, based on 5,000 acres available, with three harvests per year the company would able to operate for a minimum of 15 years before expanding. Dunlap hopes to replicate the operation on other Family Islands.