A U.K. cheese maker is using its cows and pigs to generate clean power and help shave as much as 1 million pounds ($1.6 million) a year off its energy bills.
Wyke Farms Ltd., the U.K.’s largest family-owned cheese maker and milk processor, today started a 4 million-pound facility that will use waste including pig and cow poop to generate electricity, Richard Clothier, managing director for the Somerset-based company, said in a telephone interview.
“Years ago we would be having board meetings and the gas price or the electric price would go up and add another 10,000 pounds a month to the cost of our cheese making,” Clothier said. “It’s unacceptable that OPEC or unstable regions within the Middle East can decide for us how much it’s going to cost us to make our cheddar in Somerset.”
The biogas facility as well as solar panels the company already has installed means Wyke Farms can now produce all its electricity on site, helping it to shave more than 1 million pounds a year off its bills, Clothier said. By the middle of next year, Clothier also expects to be using bio-methane so it won’t have to buy gas from the grid.
The U.K. government awards premium payments, known as feed-in tariffs, to homes and businesses that produce electricity from low-carbon sources with a capacity below 5 megawatts. Wyke Farms is eligible to receive 9.24 pence a kilowatt-hour to 15.16 pence a kilowatt-hour for the electricity generated by its biogas plant. Without the subsidy Wyke Farms wouldn’t have been able to get the investment for its projects, Clothier said.
Wyke Farms is investing 10 million pounds in alternative energy, including the solar panels and the biogas plant. It raised some of the money from shareholders and a portion from Barclays Plc and it expects the projects should pay back over about 3 1/2 years.
“If as a business we’re going to be fit for the future and survive into the next century then energy is going to be one of the things we really have to be focused on, and that is the same for all manufacturing businesses,” Clothier said.