In Scotland, a greener whisky rebellion

Call it Scottish biofuel. Malt whisky will help Helius Energy charge up the national grid near the storied Highlands.

The latest twist in the fight against fossil fuels comes from Scotland, which is putting one of its most famous assets to work generating electricity – whisky.

Helius Energy, a London based biomass company, is leading a £60.5 million ($100 million) project to convert waste from distilleries in the Speyside area into electricity and heat.

A joint venture called Helius CorDE Ltd will burn a solid residue called draff – that’s what’s left of the grain after it ferments – with wood chips at a 7.2-megawatt plant that Helius says will furnish electricity to 9,000 homes. The company will sell the electricity to utility company npower.

The project, in the northeast of the country near the Highlands, “will deliver greenhouse gas savings of some 46,000 tonnes of CO2 per year compared to UK coal fired stations,” Helius says in a press release. Helius will also provide another byproduct, pot ale syrup, as an animal feed.

Helius CoRDe recently awarded construction contracts totalling £44 million ($73 million). It expects the plant the plant to be up and running in two years, and to generate 100 construction jobs and 20 permanent ones.

The joint venture partners include Rabobank’s Rabo Project Equity, as well as the Combination of Rothes Distillers Ltd ("CoRD"). CoRD itself is a joint venture between BenRiach Distillery Co Ltd, Chivas Brothers Ltd, The Edrington Group, Glen Grant Distillery Co Ltd, Inverhouse Distiller, Diageo and John Dewar & Sons.

Although some observers have questioned whether the wood chips will come from local sources, at least one environmentalist has praised the project. The Guardian newspaper quotes Sam Gardner, climate policy officer for World Wildlife Foundation Scotland, saying, “From the information we have, the project looks to be a very welcome addition to Scotland’s renewable industry. It is using waste products from our whisky industry which is (an) eminently sensible thing to do, and is producing heat both for whisky production and for the local community. We would want to see assurances, however that the biomass was sustainably sourced.”

If so, whisky could provide one more step towards putting fossil fuels on the rocks.

Photo: Brits At Their Best

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com