Waste from the manufacture of Yorkshire's most famous cheese is going to be used to power homes.
By-products from the cheese production process at the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes will be taken to the Iona biogas plant in Leeming where they will be converted into electricity.
Iona Capital will use the waste whey permeate to produce one million cubic metres of green gas - generating enough thermal power to heat 800 homes every year.
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The Wensleydale Creamery currently produces 4,000 tonnes of cheese every year at its Dales dairy.
Iona Capital now has nine anaerobic digestion facilities in Yorkshire which are used to convert waste feedstock into renewable energy.
Any surplus whey permeate will be recycled again by being taken to nearby farmland, where it will be used to improve topsoil quality.
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Wensleydale Creamery managing director David Hartley said:-
“We are delighted to be signing this agreement with Iona Capital and proud to be delivering sustainable environmental and economic benefits to our region. The whole process of converting local milk to premium cheese and then deriving environmental and economic benefit from the natural by-products is an essential part of our business plan as a proud rural business. It is only possible as a result of significant and continued investments in our Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes and to sign this agreement and have the opportunity to convert a valuable by-product of cheese making into energy that will power hundreds of homes across the region will be fantastic for everyone involved.”
Yorkshire's most famous cheesemaker
The Wensleydale Creamery, based at Hawes in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is the home of the famous crumbly Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese. Workers use traditional methods to handcraft cheese based on centuries-old recipes, with milk from local farms, and the dairy also develops new products.
Other manufacturers of the Wensleydale variety cannot use the Yorkshire Wensleydale designation due to legal restrictions.
The site also has a visitor centre, shop and cafe that have become a popular tourist attraction.
Wensleydale cheese was first made by French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region, who had settled in Wensleydale. They built a monastery at Fors, but some years later the monks moved to Jervaulx in Lower Wensleydale. They brought with them a recipe for making cheese from sheep's milk.
During the 14th century cows' milk began to be used instead, and the character of the cheese began to change. When the monastery was dissolved in 1540, the local farmers continued making the cheese until the Second World War, during which most milk in the country was used for the making of a standard government-produced cheddar. Even after rationing ended in 1954, cheesemaking did not return to pre-war levels.
The Creamery has been operational since 1897. In 1992, the plant closed with the loss of 59 jobs when owners Dairy Crest controversially transferred production to a site in Lancashire. Six months later, local businessman John Gibson led a management buy-out and the factory re-opened just six months later.