Of Course France Has a Power Plant That Runs on Cheese

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Delicious and a biofuel? Yes, whey.
Delicious and a biofuel? Yes, whey. Photo: Allan L. Courtney/CC/flickr

Once again, the good people of France remind us that there’s no problem a little cheese can’t fix. Take, for instance, our overreliance on fossil fuels: A new power plant in Albertville, a town in the Alps, is using the leftovers from Beaufort, the region’s famous, gruyère-like cheese, to produce electricity. As bizarre as this sounds, the Canadian renewable-energy company that designed it, Valbio, actually built the first cheese-to-energy prototype 10 years ago. But this latest version, the Telegraph reports, is a full-fledged, 2.8 million-kilowatt-hours-per-year operation.

This puts Valbio in the class of other ecoconscious geniuses that have found ways to convert beer into car fuel and run airplanes off food waste. Valbio’s specific process also sounds neat, if a little gross: Whey, a byproduct from making Beaufort, becomes the plant’s fuel. The liquid, which remains after straining out cheese, is put in a tank with bacteria to create fermentation, and the fermentation produces methane that’s then used to heat water to a near-boil in an engine, generating hydroelectricity. Once things get humming, the plant will crank out enough electricity annually to power a community of 1,500 people, as well as, one imagines a few cows, too.

[Telegraph]

The French Power Plant That Runs on Cheese