Northern Ireland’s oldest creamery will be churning out entirely ‘green’ cheese after it launched a new £3.5m energy plant that uses organic dairy waste to generate electricity.
Coleraine-based Ballyrashane says the anaerobic digestion facility — the first of its kind in Northern Ireland — will produce renewable biogas from creamery wastes, energy crops and even cattle slurry from local farms.
The company said the move will transform the business, provide important new income streams for local farmers and sustain current employment levels.
Ballyrashane chief executive Nigel Kemps said: “This is a tremendously exciting and privately-funded initiative which will radically reduce our energy costs as well as generating sufficient electricity to run the entire Ballyrashane facility whilst enabling our processing operation to run completely carbon-free.”
Ballyrashane is an independent co-operative owned and run by local farmers. It was founded in 1896 and is a significant processor of milk and cream, selling its products worldwide. Last year the business, which employs 150 people, had a turnover of £82 million.
The project was designed by the Ballyrashane Creamery Energy Team, with analysis and detailed design undertaken by the Carbon Trust Northern Ireland.
Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Mr Kemps said: “We are delighted to be the first dairy company in Northern Ireland to invest in this exciting technology. This is a proven process that has worked extremely successfully in other parts of the world.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster (pictured) said: “This is an important and highly innovative project which will undoubtedly set an example to other local companies concerned about environmental obligations.
“The willingness ... of Ballyrashane Co-operative to invest in this important technology is a clear statement of their intent to drive faster growth.
It is an excellent example of the vision and ambition that I am very keen to encourage and support.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “I firmly believe that renewable energy is our single biggest economic opportunity.
“This development is a fine example as it provides ... an opportunity to invest in sustainable green technology (that) reduces carbon dioxide emissions by over 3,500 tonnes a year whilst consolidating 150 jobs.
It is good news for Coleraine, good news for the environment and good news for the economy.”
Ballyrashane creamery’s new purpose-built plant sits on a four-acre site at the company’s farm premises near its Coleraine production facility. It uses Anaerobic Digestion (AD) tank technology to produce renewable biogas, generating more than 7m kWh of electricity and additional process heat. The process will also provide odour-free bio-fertiliser as a by-product for local farms.