Gone green to save money

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One of my favorite early field assignments as an editor was touring a sugar factory in southern Florida. I was already in Tampa for my main project, so as long as I was in the area, I rented a car and drove down to Coral Gables, outside of Miami.
I met my host for lunch, had some Cuban coffee and fried bananas -- quite an experience. Then I followed my host to the sugar factory.
Stalks of raw sugar cane were delivered from the field and loaded onto a conveyor that transported the sweet stuff into the factory. The cane then went through a series of rollers that squeezed the juice out of the stalks. The juice collected in vats below and eventually found its way into a heater that turned the juice into syrup and, eventually, brown sugar.
The brown sugar was not food grade and was loaded onto trucks for transport to a factory for further processing into white table sugar. Oddly, brown sugar was made by adding molasses into the white sugar. Now I think companies divert some of the raw sugar into a process that makes it table ready.
Anyway, what I found most interesting about the sugar factory was its power management. After the juice is squeezed from the stalks of cane, residual juice still remains in them. This juice is a high energy fuel, so it is burned to produce electricity to run the plant. In fact, so much power is generated that the plant sells power back to the electric company.
So, ultimately, this plant may have had a negative carbon footprint (a term I certainly had never heard at the time) based on the surplus energy it produced. On the other hand, the emissions spewing from the smokestacks showed that the power generation was not the plant operators' attempt to go green, but to earn some greenbacks.

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Alan Hitchcox

Alan joined Hydraulics & Pneumatics in 1987 with experience as a technical magazine editor and in industrial sales. He graduated with a BS in engineering technology from Franklin University and...
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