Feasibility study on Viaspace Giant King Grass project concludes

Renewable energy company Viaspace has announced that the comprehensive, independent feasibility study conducted by Pelican of the 12MW biomass power plant and co-located 834 hectare (2,060 acre) Giant King Grass (GKG) plantation project in Nicaragua has been completed.

The feasibility study addresses the technical and economic issues of both the plantation and power plant, including connection to the Nicaraguan power grid.

The study is now being provided on a confidential basis to bankers and potential investors in the project. Energia Reino Verde (Green Kingdom Energy) is the special-purpose company formed to own and operate the Nicaragua power plant and plantation.

The study found that the proposed integrated 12MW biomass power plant and plantation is both feasible and bankable. In addition to GKG, the power plant will be fuelled by rice husk as a secondary fuel and rice straw as a backup fuel.

This conclusion is based on an extensive review of the agriculture plan, fuel logistics, power plant technology, grid interconnection plan, construction costs and operations. Environmental, permitting and legal issues were also examined.

The main conclusions of the feasibility study are:
• GKG is suitable as the fuel. Rice husk is available at the site as an additional fuel, and rice straw is available at the site and nearby areas as an auxiliary backup fuel.
• The GKG plantation is very similar to a sugarcane plantation and will utilise best practices from the sugarcane industry.
• The GKG plantation will be located on the 4,200 hectare Miramontes plantation that is currently growing rice on 2,800 hectares. Irrigation from Lake Nicaragua is available, as are plantation and power plant workers in the region.
• A major advantage is that the GKG plantation and power plant will be co-located and the average distance between the GKG fields and the power plant is 3km, which considerably simplifies logistics and minimises need for storage.
• Based on the experience of the sugarcane industry, a semi-mechanised approach to cutting and loading is recommended. In most of the world, these activities are done fully manually and this is certainly feasible in Nicaragua.
• The biomass power plant will be nearly identical to a bagasse co-generation power plant at a sugar mill, except that the boiler will be replaced with a boiler that can handle the proposed fuels that have specific corrosive properties related to chlorine content, and the propensity for slagging due to low melting temperature ash.
• The proposed boiler technology is well proven for corrosive fuel such as straws and grasses.
• The biomass power plant is located 9km from a grid connection point, which is a reasonable expense for the proposed size of the project.
• Power plant operations are planned to be contracted to an experienced company.
• The costs and financial projections for the ERV project have been validated.
• The renewable low carbon electricity produced will be sold under a Power Purchase Agreement. The plant will produce reliable base electricity and would also be eligible for capacity contracting.
• Permitting activities are underway. The non-objection from the Ministry of the Environment has been issued. A Provisional Generation License request has been submitted to the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Viaspace CEO Carl Kukkonen, says: 'We are pleased that the Pelican feasibility study has formally validated the technical and business case for our Energia Reino Verde power plant integrated with the Giant King Grass plantation. We believe that we have all of the bases covered and the potential risks have been mitigated. The plant will produce 84GWh of saleable renewable and low carbon electricity per year for a project life of 25 years.'

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