A 5MW anaerobic digestion plant being commissioned in Cumbria this month is the first in Europe to feed biomethane into the gas grid that is generated exclusively by cheese.
It will also power a CHP engine at First Milk’s Aspatria creamery, thereby saving up to 25% on energy costs.
Other revenue benefits, according Clearfleau, the firm behind the project, include 20-year index-linked incentive payments of around £2 million per annum through the Renewable Heat Incentive and a further £1 million through the sale of gas to the wholesale market and from the Feed in Tariff scheme for the power generated in the CHP engine.
Lake District Biogas will operate the site for 20 years, taking cheese production residue feedstock from the creamery.
When the plant ramps up to full capacity, it will treat 1,650m3 per day of process effluent and whey and generate around 5MW of thermal energy, according to Clearfleau.
Producing 1000m3 of biogas per hour, over 80% will be upgraded for injection into the national grid. At least 60% will be used in the creamery for steam generation with the remainder being used by local businesses and households.
Clearfleau boss Craig Chapman said the firm was now in talks with other dairy companies as the sector realises the energy potential of their revenues.
“Dairy processors can generate value from their residues with a better return on investment than for other more conventional treatment and disposal options,” he said. “This project, generating biogas solely from creamery residues is based on British engineering and is transforming the way in which the dairy industry manages its residues.”