Approximately 3,000 homes in the Wisconsin area will soon be getting their energy and power from a most unlikely source: cheese.
Thanks to a $28 million project called GreenWhey Energy, whey—a byproduct of cheese production—will be turned into fuel and sold to local energy company, Xcel Energy Inc. located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Beginning this summer when the plant is operational, GreenWhey Energy will generate 3.2 megawatts of electricity for nearby homes. The project also reduces land-spreading of waste that can lead to phosphorous runoff. It's expected to employ up to 13 full-time employees.
The project is being funded for the most part through private financing along with a federal grant that will cover about 25 percent of the cost. Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Journal Sentinel reports that Clay Norrbom of Madison, project backer and a partner in the Geo Investors Fund said "This is so much more than green electricity production," adding, "You help Wisconsin food processors become more competitive and you use their waste to create electricity. And then the waste heat off those engines, you're able to return to a local plant that they can use for their process heat."
According to the Journal Sentinel, "The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. provided funding through the State Energy Program, a $55 million revolving loan fund originally financed through the federal stimulus package. The GreenWhey loan is for $3.4 million, which Norrbom said will be used as bridge financing until the federal grant becomes available."
A Rothes, Scotland group of whisky distillers have also joined forces to produce more than 7 megawatts of electricity from pot ale and draff leftover from production. The facility is slated to open this year.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger