Willie Smits (58) between sugar palms in the nursery compound in a consession forest area owned by ITCI (International Timber Corporation Indonesia) in Kenangan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Willie Smits is the Forest Development Director of ITCI which was one of the largest timber company operating in Indonesia which stopped its operation in 2008. Willie was appointed by Hasyim Djojohadikusumo, the new owner of ITCI to lead the reforestation project in the area. NGS is funding TapWorld managed by Willie Smits for the production of lower grade ethanol through a testing module. Tree tappers, of the Arenga Sugar Palm, extract a sugary juice and produce sugar or ethanol (70-72% alcohol), which is low-grade ethanol. In local villages, people use ethanol for cook stoves or motorbikes.
Willie Smits Email: willie.smits@gmail.com Mobile: +628111103824 / Wisnu Wardhana (Willie Smits Personal Assistant) Email: wisnu_iis@yahoo.com Mobile: +6285796948096

Rony Zakaria

Great Energy Challenge Innovator: Masarang Foundation

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, Nat Geo 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:

*This work was previously carried out by TapWorld.org

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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