Islay distillery becomes self-sufficient by generating electricity from waste

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A SCOTTISH distillery will shortly become the first in the world to go completely green by creating its own electricity from the whisky-making process.

The plan to create volts from malts involves using waste products from distillation to generate power.

Bruichladdich distillery on Islay says the £300,000 project will create enough electricity to export to local homes, cut the cost of transporting waste, and benefit the environment.

The firm has teamed up with a company called BioWayste to turn the waste, called pot ale, into useful power.

The pot ale, rich in protein and carbohydrates, has previously been dumped into the sea.

Although the dumping is not in itself harmful, turning the pot ale into electricity to drive the distillery means less power has to be taken from the grid.

Mark Reynier, managing director of Bruichladdich distillery, said: “We are doing it for a practical and sensible reason and because it’s common sense.

“It costs money to ship away the waste in lorries but now the process will make us around £120,000 a year.

“It will do three things; it will replace the cost of electricity that we have to pay, save us the cost of transporting the waste to the other side of the island and pouring it into the sea and it will also generate electricity that we can sell on.”

The waste is turned into electricity through the process of anaerobic digestion.

Two 50,000 litre tanks filled with 18,000 litres of specially bred bacteria have been installed in the plant and the pot ale is used as food for the bacteria. The process generates enough heat to generate electricity.

Mr Reynier said that by the end of December the bacteria would be able to handle the level of pot ale the distillery produces.

He said: “It will produce exactly the amount of electricity that we need with a little left over to export.”

Any electricity left over from the process will be sold to the national grid and the only bi-product of the process is pure clean water which can also be re-used.”

Mr Reynier added: “It is a very old concept but has been given a new life.

“It saves money in powering the distillery, it maximises our waste stream and will turn around and make us money.”

The family-owned distillery has been producing whiskey on the island since 2001.

It produces around 800,000 litres of whiskey around 45,000 cases are sold worldwide.

Speaking of the locals on the island Mr Reynier said: “Of course they are happy. It means less traffic on the roads. It is a very neat solution.

“If we can do it then everybody can. It is a practical solution and people will see that every distillery and every farm should be doing it.

“If it can be done on Islay in the middle of nowhere then it can be done anywhere.”

The process of anaerobic digestion has been around for years but this is the first time it will be used in a small distillery to make it completely self-sufficient.

Brian Howard, CEO of Biowayste, said: “Traditionally aerobic digestion has been done in big containers and small companies don’t have the money to fund it.

“The difference is that we have taken new technology and engineering solutions to an old industry. We have basically dragged it into the 21st century.

“It is now small and compact and can fit onto compact sites. And by being smaller it is more affordable.

“Bruichladdich are excellent at finding new and interesting ways to improve their business. They have a great attitude to new technology.

“It is very exciting. Now not only are they making a fantastic product but the by-product is producing electricity too.”

REPORT: Amanda MacMillan

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