Cheese Fuel: Power Supply Produced by Cheese-Based Power Station in the French Alps

Dec 21, 2015 12:00 PM EST | By A. M.

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Cheese is largely now increasingly essential in day to day life. Besides a rich source of essential probiotics and calcium, it is also now powering cars and lately buttressing up power stations - specifically the Albertville power station in Savoie at the French Alps. Thanks to the skimmed whey refuse from Beaufort cheese, a biogas mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produces the power plant's fuel.

This whole process begins after whey and cream residues are left when full-fat milk is made into Beaufort cheese. The cream by-product is still used to make other cheese and protein products such as ricotta cheese and protein powder. The whey leavings, on the other hand, are mixed with bacteria in a special tank to allow fermentation to occur so that methane can be produced. The natural gas is funnelled into machinery where water is heated to 90 degrees Celsius and by which electricity is generated.

The plant, which was designed by Valbio, is designed to generate a projected 2.8 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. This is sufficient to provide for the power consumption of a community the size of 1.500 residents. The electricity produced is supplied to EDF, an energy company.

François Decker of Valbio summarises the technology as:  "Whey is our fuel. It's quite simply the same as the ingredient in natural yoghurt."

Albertville's power station is neither the first nor the only cheese-based power generator globally. However, it is currently the biggest generator based on this technology. Around 20 other smaller sized plants in Canada, France and a few other European countries produce electricity the same way. Australia, Italy, Brazil and Uruguay are developing their own new plants.

A similar concept is used by the Wyke Farms in Somerset, England where electricity is produced using cheese waste, excess crops and cow manure.

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