Perhaps Wallace was on to something in “A Grand Day Out” …
Gromit, that’s it! Cheese! We’ll go somewhere where there’s cheese!
A power plant in the French Alps is generating energy using waste from the production of cheese. Is this a guarantee that there will never be a power outage because no one wants to cut the cheese?
There’s plenty of cheese jokes to come but the story is real and a great solution for the 1,500 residents of the town of Albertville, which is near Beaufort, the home of Beaufort cheese, where this story begins.
Beaufort is an Alpine cheese made from the milk of local Tarentaise and Abondance cows. It’s a creamy yellow Gruyere cheese with a strong smell and no holes. Once the raw milk is made into Beaufort, the byproducts are cream and whey. The cream is made into butter and ricotta cheese. That leaves the whey. Until recently, they had to haul away the whey to farms that used it for feed or fertilizer. A foul finish for a fine fromage.
That’s where Valbio comes in. The company builds biofuel plants that convert organic matter into electricity. Could the whey be used for fuel? Where there’s a whey, there’s a will. (I warned you)
The facility built in Albertville is one of the largest cheese power plants. It’s a simple process: bacteria is added to the whey to produce methane gas which is used to generate electricity that is sold to the local power company and distributed to the residents of Albertville.
Is this a good way to use the whey? Albertville thinks so. The plant produces 2.8 million kilowatt-hours per year – more than enough for the town’s needs. Valbio thinks so too. It has 20 smaller cheese-fueled plants in France and other countries and orders for new construction in Australia, Italy, Brazil and Uruguay.
Does the whey have to come from Beaufort? The French would say the best power comes from French cheeses but gouda is good too. In fact, any kind of whey combined with bacteria to make methane will turn a conventional power plant into a biofueled cheese whiz.
Wallace and Gromit would be proud.