Scotch Whisky Distillers Cut Carbon Emissions...With Whisky

A group of Scottish whisky distillers are giving new meaning to the term “lit.” They’ve joined forces to build a power plant that turns whisky by-products into energy, with the potential to significantly cut carbon emissions for the Scotch whisky industry.

The Rothes, Scottland operation is set to be in service by 2013, and will generate 7.2 megawatts of electricity, which Julie Hesketh-Laird, director of operational and technical affairs at the Scotch Whisky Association, says will reduce carbon emissions from the Scotch whisky industry by 6 percent.

The Scotch whisky industry has pledged to supply 20 percent of its primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020 and will use pot ale and draff from the distilling process at the biomass plant in Rothes, which will create both heat and electricity by being combusted in a dedicated Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. The bulk of the energy will be sold into the grid, helping Scottish electricity companies to purchase renewable energy.

Helius Corde is a joint venture of seven distillers including Diageo and BenRiach—but it’s not the only carbon-reducing initiative in the industry. Many area distillers are creating energy with the use of “spent-wash,” a residual liquid byproduct generated during alcohol production.  Pollution caused by spent wash is one of the most critical environmental issues of the industry. Diageo, one of the biggest names in Scotch whiskey distillers built a bio-energy facility in Fife to provide 80 percent of its electricity needs, cutting its carbon footprint by 60 percent.

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Photo: yvescosentino