A sugar palm energy researcher.

Photograph courtesy Eric Rasmussen

Great Energy Challenge Grantee: TapWorld.org

Project: Sustainably harvest juice from the Arenga sugar palm to produce ethanol

Location: North Sulawesi, Indonesia; Village Hub Testing Unit in Tomohon.

Summary: Forester and conservationist Dr. Willie Smits has collaborated with local organizations to develop a small-scale facility to sustainably harvest juice from the Arenga sugar palm. The entire process generates a low-grade ethanol without diverting or competing with food crops for biofuel through a sustainable, low-carbon method. At the same time, it produces a premium organic sugar. A key project benefit, the preservation of existing native rain forest, is paramount to Indonesia, which is a leading greenhouse gas emitter due largely to deforestation. The first Great Energy Challenge grant provides funding for a module to test the production of low-grade ethanol.

Goal: Develop a social cooperative model to revitalize forests, generate energy, create jobs and protect the environment.

"By funding a testing module for the production of lower grade Ethanol deriving from the Indonesian sugar palm tree, NatGeo enabled us to make another important step towards a fully sustainable low carbon ethanol production that can significantly contribute to forest preservation and poverty alleviation in local communities."—Willie Smits, scientist, TapWorld.org Foundation

Related story: "A Rain Forest Advocate Taps the Energy of the Sugar Palm"

Project participants:

The Great Energy Challenge grant program, in collaboration with a distinguished group of scientists acting as the board of advisors, awards roughly a half-dozen grants per year. The goal of the grant program is to hasten the growth of promising, global energy solutions as a response to climate change, energy resource constraints and environmental limitations.

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