Uruguay is showing the way for the rest of the world with the majority of the country's energy production based on renewable sources. The Montes del Plata pulp mill, which is 50%-owned by Stora Enso, contributes by producing 5% of Uruguay's electricity from biomass.
As a modern pulp mill with state-of-the-art technology, Montes del Plata is self-sufficient in electricity and heat due to the burning of black liquor, a by-product from pulp production that is carbon neutral. The mill only consumes half of the electricity it produces, and sells the rest to the Uruguayan national grid.
"In 2015, the mill produced 1 148 GWh of electricity but only consumed 636 GWh, so we were able to sell almost half of the electricity we generated – an amount that meets the annual needs of around 200 000 households. As 2015 was the first full year of production, we expect the share of sold energy to increase in future," explains Montes del Plata's Production Manager Eero Ristola.
According to Ristola, several state-of-the-art technologies at Montes del Plata promote energy efficiency, including modern turbines and the efficient recovery of combustion gases, which minimises heat loss. In addition to burning black liquor, the mill generates energy from wood biomass residuals.
Focus on renewables
Around 92% of Uruguay's energy generation is currently based on renewable sources, and the national objective is to further increase this share. Hydroelectric power covers two thirds of the country's energy production, supported by wind power and biomass energy.
The green electricity from Montes del Plata is sold to Uruguay's state-owned power company UTE, which delivers it to households around the country. In 2015, the share of biomass-based electricity from Montes del Plata covered around 5% of the electricity used in Uruguay's national grid.
"Montes del Plata's electricity contribution has been very appreciated since the its start-up in 2014 and the pulp mill has contributed towards Uruguay's energy self-sufficiency," explains Ristola.
Improving everyday life
The Montes del Plata pulp mill is located in the countryside of Colonia province, which has required investment in the local energy infrastructure. Montes del Plata has built a new electricity line from the mill to the closest city, Colonia del Sacramento, 60 kilometres away that has benefited local people.
"The new line has improved the reliability of the electricity supply to the villages and households in the area, as the grid is now less susceptible to interruptions," says Ristola. "In the national context, Montes del Plata is proud to reduce Uruguay's need for fossil-based energy and support its ambition to actively combat global warming."