Ohio Cheese Maker Uses Dairy Waste to Generate Electricity

Pearl Valley Cheese, an 80-year-old, family-owned business in central Ohio, is going with a power system that runs on cheese manufacturing waste water and promises to save the company more than $40,000 per year in electricity costs.

The system, custom-designed and installed by GEM Energy of Walbridge, OH, is powered by a C65 Capstone MicroTurbine, which is capable of producing 65 kW of electricity.

Before the methane gas from recycled cheese manufacturing wastewater can be used as fuel, moisture must be removed. The existing system at Pearl Valley used a low-pressure moisture removal system. GEM Energy designed a high-pressure moisture removal system to make the gas work with the Capstone turbine.

By recycling waste to generate electricity, Pearl Valley Cheese has reduced its use of coal-generated electricity.

Pearl Valley has been using the digester gas to fuel the steam boiler for process heat, but based on falling natural gas prices and rising electric prices, the company ultimately decided on a technology that could generate electricity with the renewable fuel. Pearl Valley’s owners chose a Capstone Microturbine, with its ultra-low emissions, quiet operation and ability to handle gas with a high sulfur content as the best fit for their facility. The system allows Pearl Valley to operate on multiple energy sources, including electricity, natural gas and biogas – which reduces the impact of sharp increases in cost for any single energy source.

Pearl Valley Cheese manufactures 25,000 pounds of cheese per day and distributes natural cheeses throughout the eastern United States. The company’s 40,000-square foot operation houses a retail store, administrative offices, cold storage warehousing and manufacturing facilities.

Last year, GEM Energy hosted a Critical Power and Data Center Summit in partnership with Capstone Turbine at The University of Toledo. The summit focused on microturbines, and attendees visited various microturbine applications scattered around Toledo.

GreenWhey Energy is building an anaerobic digester facility in Turtle Lake, Wis., that will turn 500,000 gallons per day of dairy wastewater into enough biogas to produce 3.2 MW of energy.

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