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The World Cocoa Foundation has provided more details about an innovative cocoa waste-to-power project in Côte d’Ivoire.

Clare Sierawski, West Africa Country Manager at Power Africa, said the country has “tremendous potential” to capitalize on abundant cocoa waste to meet a growing energy demand.

With support from the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), Ivorian company Société des Energies Nouvelles (SODEN) is pursuing plans to build a 60-70 MW grid-connected, cocoa biomass-to-energy plant in Divo, one of the most important cocoa-growing regions in the country.

The Divo Cocoa Biomass Project will be the world’s first biomass power generation plant running on waste from cocoa pods. In addition to expanding the country’s energy mix, the project will reduce waste and provide local farmers and cocoa producers with a new stream of revenue.

“I would like to move ahead quickly with the Divo Cocoa Biomass Project,” said Ogou Yapi, Managing Director of SODEN, “and USTDA’s grant will help to do that. This is just the beginning – I see the Divo Project as the first of many biomass projects here,” he said.

“This project will provide jobs, additional opportunities for cocoa farmers and the cocoa economy, and it will contribute to energy security in Côte-d’Ivoire, while helping us reach our goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 28 per cent set at COP21 in Paris.”

Côte d’Ivoire creates millions of tons of cocoa pod waste each year, with 94 per cent of the pod weight remaining as waste after the beans are harvested.

Pods are currently burned or dumped away from cultivation sites, representing a major source of lost potential resources that could be used to meet the country’s growing energy demand.

In addition to supporting the Ivorian economy, the Divo Cocoa Biomass Project will also support US jobs and exports. SODEN has selected Recast Energy LLC of Richmond, Virginia, a company with biomass expertise, to carry out the feasibility study.

Thomas Hardy, USTDA’s Director of Congressional and Public Affairs, said “The Ivorian economy is strong and growing, and we look forward to supporting this growth, while helping US companies enter this dynamic market.”

Sierawski said the cocoa biomass project will help Côte d’Ivoire meet its goal of generating 434 MW of electricity from biomass by 2030.

As an exporter of energy to neighbouring countries, Côte d’Ivoire plans to extend its grid to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone this year.

Relying solely on domestic waste, the project will support energy independence in Côte d’Ivoire and reduce the need to import expensive fossil fuels.

The feasibility study will soon be underway, and SODEN will be looking for financing late next year. The plan is to have the plant up and running by late 2020.

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