Submitted to: Sugar Tech
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: December 10, 2010
Publication Date: January 26, 2011
Citation: Panella, L.W. 2011. Sugar Beet as an Energy Crop. Sugar Tech. 12(3-4):288-293. Interpretive Summary: The combination of an unstable oil market and limited oil resources and the effect on global climate change to the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels has increased the interest in sustainable energy from renewable biofuels. Sugar beet provides an abundance of sugar, which is easily changed into alcohol by many microbes and sugar beet is one of the most efficient sources of alcohol (ethanol), however storage of harvested roots is a problem. Most studies have indicated ethanol as a fuel has reduced greenhouse gas emissions when compared to oil-based fuels. Alcohol from sugar beet reduces greenhouse gas emissions as well as or better than alcohol from corn or sugarcane. Storage of sugar beet is a problem that could be solved by storage in a silo without air present and used to produce methane (a gas, which could yield more energy than ethanol). As the global economy moves away from fossil fuels, sugar beet will play an increasing role in the adoption of more sustainable energy generation systems.
Technical Abstract: The combination of volatility in the oil market and finite oil resources and the effect on global climate change from the addition of CO2 to the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels has increased the interest in sustainable energy generation from renewable biofuels. Most 1st generation biofuels in current production are liquid with bioethanol the product of fermentation. Sugar beet provides an abundance of sucrose, which is easily fermented by many microbes and on a per hectare basis; sugar beet is one of the most efficient sources of ethanol, however storage of harvested roots is problematic. Most studies have indicated sustainable biofuels have reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) when compared to petroleum-based fuels. Bioethanol from sugar beet reduces GHG comparably or superiorly to maize or sugarcane. There also are other biofuels from fermentation, including biomethanol, biobutanol ETBE, biomethane, and biohydrogen, many of which are more energy dense than ethanol. Storage of sugar beet is a problem that could be solved by ensilage and anaerobic digestion producing a biogas, which could yield more energy per hectare than bioethanol. As the global economy moves away from fossil fuels, sugar beet will play an increasing role in the adoption of more sustainable energy generation.