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Ingenio Magdalena: Sweet Energy

With over 33 years of history behind it, Ingenio Magdalena produces and commercializes products derived from sugar cane milling, which has established the company as the largest sugar cane producer in Central America and a key producer of renewable energy. The company is therefore on a mission to transform the sugar cane crop into a crucial pillar of sustainable development for the future through its core values of honesty, humility, and a passion for achievement. We are thrilled to return to Magdalena once again and see how its renewable energy development has continued to expand as it sets out goals for the next few years.  

Magdalena began as a small agricultural company which over the years continued to expand, and today is a leading energy producer across Guatemala thanks to its crop growing and harvesting process. As of 2023, renewable energy produced from the crop by Magdalena generates 12% of the energy consumed in Guatemala. Therefore, through the development of the sugar cane crop, Magdalena has positioned itself as a leading renewable energy producer which is setting its sights on larger targets as the world moves ever more towards a green future.  

For Magdalena, sugar plays the most prominent role in its operations, as it is from this crop that it has significantly developed Guatemala as an industrial unit. Sugar cane is grown and milled in Guatemala by Magdalena and then refined into sugar products suitable for exporting across Latin America, the US, Europe, and Asia. The sugar produced by Magdalena includes standard, brown, golden, raw, and refined, all of which come in 3 qualities: premium, Mag and Tierra Dulce. The brown and standard sugar is transported across local markets, whilst raw, golden, and refined sugars which it exported. The current installed capacity at Magdalena, through its mills, is 40,000 metric tonnes (MT) of sugar cane milled per day. What separates Magdalena’s production is its development and application of technologies which enhances the quality and efficiency of its sugar cane milling and production processes in its raw form. These technologies have allowed Magdalena to lead the national market with a 24% contribution of sugar and a current milling rate of 38,640 metric tonnes of sugar cane a day.  

However, biomass is produced as a byproduct of the sugar cane milling process, is used by Magdalena as a renewable energy source to supply energy to the National Interconnected System via its power plant. Magdalena has been actively producing power since the 1990s and currently has an installed capacity of 331.4 megawatt hours (MWh) of electrical energy. The company began generating electricity in the 1990s when its power generation plant had a capacity of just 12.5 MegaWatts. Four years later, Magdalena signed its first long-term contract with Empressa Eléctrica de Guatemala (EEGSA) for an additional 14 MW. This contract was renewed in 2002, adding a further 15.4MW of electrical output. Over the following years, Magdalena has continued to expand its electrical capacity which has seen the company now play a significant role in energy production for the region, as well as make crucial steps towards further renewable energy resources.  

At present in 2023, Magdalena is currently undertaking new projects into the world of renewable energy as it not only becomes a key focus for the company, but the world too. The Central American region is currently in the midst of an unprecedented energy transformation, for which Magdalen is leading the way as an essential pillar for the generation of electric energy through sustainable means. Previously, Magdalena has utilised biomass and hydroelectric energy which have both had a significant impact on the environment and the local community. Its projects to continually reduce carbon dioxide production are seeking to improve the quality of life across the areas in which it operates, and so we can see through its growth of non-conventional renewable energy previously, Magdalena is set on a new mission to find a way to develop energy for Guatemala.  

In a recent announcement, Magdalena announced it was looking to move towards developing solar and wind energy production, to benefit both its operations and contribute significantly to the power production across Guatemala. One facet of these plans is that it wants to improve the generation and storage of its renewable energy services through technological innovation which will establish it not only as a key player on a national level, but a key player in the energy revolution on a global scale. Magdalena, therefore, stands as a beacon of hope for a region that is constantly striving for a greener and more prosperous future. Consequently, by 2026 Magdalena hopes to be a cost and productivity leader through innovation, growth, and sustainable values creation, which is diversifying its products across a range of different markets from crop production to renewable energy delivery.  

However, Magdalena’s operations do not end there; the company utilises the by-products of their sugar cane milling in the production of alcohol with the use of molasses. By fermenting the by-products that derive from the sugar cane milling process with a yeast strain, Magdalena can distil these products to produce Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA), Industrial Alcohol (REN) and Heads and Tails (C&C). In addition, Magdalena processes the carbon dioxide produced from the fermentation process and purifies it to market towards the beverage industry. Hence, in every stage of Magalena’s operations limiting waste and sustainability are always at the forefront. 

An underlying focus for Magdalena is its focus on supporting and developing the local community and remaining aware of its wider impact throughout every operation. Magdalena remains committed to improving the quality of life for its employees, their families and the surrounding communities by implementing labour, environmental, occupational, health, and safety initiatives across the region. Furthermore, Magdalena continuously works to better understand the environment through education to make efficient and rational use of the natural resources available to best serve present and future generations. Therefore, it is clear that throughout every single aspect of Magdalena’s operations is a key focus on bringing beneficial development initiatives and infrastructure to ensure the longevity of its operations in Guatemala.  

Overall, Magdalena is a leading sugar cane production and renewable energy company across Central and Latin America. Through innovative technologies which are constantly working to benefit the people, land and the planet, Magdalena is leading the way as a company that stands for sustainable development. As Magdalena looks towards the future, we look forward to seeing how the continues to develop in line with the growing demand for green energy solutions on both a local and international scale.