The GEM Energy advanced power system installed at Pearl Valley Cheese runs off fuel produced by dairy waste from the cheese production facility. When utilizing digester gas it is important to remove moisture. The existing digester at the facility was using a low-pressure moisture removal system. GEM Energy added a a new high-pressure system to make the gas usable with the Capstone micro-turbine. Pearl Valley Cheese is expected to gain operational savings in excess of $40,000 per year from use of this new power system.

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FRESNO, Ohio — Swiss immigrants Ernest & Gertrude founded Pearl Valley Cheese in 1928, producing one 200-pound Swiss cheese wheel per day on the factory’s present site. In the past 85 years the company has grown and is presently producing 12 varieties of cheese for a total daily production of 20,000 pounds.

The family constructed a new building in 1935, added a bulk milk in the 50s, added the Colby line of cheese added in the 60s, and expanded its Swiss cheese cutting in the 70s.

In the 80s, they developed reduced fat and salt cheeses and in the 1990s they expanded the retail store. The beginning of a new century brought big changes as a new production plant was built in 2003, and in 2010 construction began on a new wastewater treatment facility.

Renewable energy project

The wastewater pretreatment facility was completed in 2011 to treat nearly 40,000 gallons of wash-up water and whey permeate and has taken on a new role.

The original intent of the plant’s design was to supply biogass (methane) to the cheese-making boilers that were fired by natural gas. For two years more than 50 percent of the fuel for the boilers has come from the methane from the wastewater plant.

However, as the market price for natural gas dropped, and the price of electricity increased, the company began to explore electrical generation using the biogas as fuel to fire an electrical generating device. In addition to the economic benefits of electrical generation, the company could also improve its new image as a “Green Cheese maker” by utilizing a renewable energy source in its cheese making operations.

The project reduces the company’s carbon footprint by reducing reliance on electricity sourced by coal fired generation plants, and reducing its hydrocarbon emissions from natural gas as a fuel for the boilers. A Capstone MicroTurbine with it ultra-low emissions, low maintenance cost, and quiet operation was the best fit for this application. The unit is capable of producing 65KW of electricity.

Many milk producers find it interesting to learn the many ways in which their milk is utilized by the company. In addition to the traditional products of cheese, cream for butter-making, and whey protein concentrate for food supplements — a new byproduct of the cheese making operation is methane gas that is used for fuel and electricity generation.

Pearl Valley Cheese Waste to Energy