The town of Albertville in southeastern France has begun using cheese to generate electricity. Their power plant, build in the Savoie region, uses a byproduct of the local Beaufort cheese manufacturies as the base for its biogas power generation system.
Ahhh, cheese. Truly, a tragically under-appreciated food. Is there any meal it cannot make wholesome with its creamy bliss? Is there anything that cheese cannot do? The answer to the last one is most likely “yes” but the French seem set on turning it into a definite “no.” Not content with enjoying cheese only with their crackers and wine, the people of Albertville in France have now found a way to include dairy in their power grid.
The dairy plant, opened in October last year, uses the skimmed whey left over from the process of making Beaufort cheese. Mixing it with cultures of bacteria, the whey is left to ferment, producing a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide — in essence, biogas. The gas is then fed through an engine that heats water to 90 degrees Celsius, and the steam used to generate electricity.
“Whey is our fuel,” said François Decker of Valbio, the company that designed and built the cheesy station.
“It’s quite simply the same as the ingredient in natural yogurt.”
The plant will produce about 2.8 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, enough electricity to supply a community of 1,500 people, Mr Decker told Le Parisien newspaper.
This isn’t Valbio’s first cheese-to-power station, but it is one of the largest. The company built its first prototype plant 10 years ago to be used by a cheese-making abbey where monks have kept this trade since the 12th century. About 20 other small-scale plants have been built in France, other European countries and Canada. More units are planned in Australia, Italy, Brazil and Uruguay.
Cream, the other by-product of Beaufort cheese-making is also reused for ricotta and serac cheese, butter, and protein powder.