Monday, October 11, 2010

Goat Gas

Finally something to be excited about: more than 200 homes in my hometown of Belmont, Wis., are about to be powered by goat gas.

Yes, my father's modest two-bedroom ranch will soon be electrified by methane gas created from goat cheese whey. I'm already envisioning the conversation possibilities the next time I visit. It's going to be awesome.

Why goat gas? Because Montchevre-Betin, one of the largest goat cheese plants in the nation, is about to debut a new $3.5 million anaerobic digester in Belmont, population 914. The digester - the first one installed at a goat cheese factory in America -- will break down whey and wastewater from the cheese plant to create methane gas, which will then be captured and sent to a generator and converted into electricity.

This is no small deal for southwestern Wisconsin. Montchevre is one of the largest employers in the area, employing about 150 people. Last year, it processed about 50 million pounds of goat milk from 300 dairy farms throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, southern Minnesota and Missouri into 8 million pounds of goat cheese. Company vice president and cheesemaker Jean Rossard says the market for goat cheese is only growing, and Montchevre will grow with it.

The digester project is adding 22,000 feet to the 90,000-square-foot-plant, which has undergone several additions and remodeling sessions since I lived there. Today, Montchevre is a respected goat cheese manufacturer with products in most supermarkets across the country. It makes everything from goat milk cheddar to feta to goat cheese logs. And now, it can add electricity to its list.

5 comments:

Jennifer said...

Wow, interesting. I really had no idea that could be done!

frpilz said...

I once read an artcle about two women from Iowa who moved up there and all they do is goat cheese. What is that dairy's name? They looked like they had a small artisan operation.

It's Not You, it's Brie said...

That's pretty amazing. I was inspired by all the Poo Power in Wisconsin when I went- the state's leading the country in dairy-to-methane. Really exciting.

And I missed you on the tour!

cheese underground lady said...

Frpilz -- I think you're referring to Anne Topham and Judy Borree. They now run Fantome Farm in Ridgeway, Wis. Here's the website: http://www.fantomefarm.com/

Kirsten -- I missed you, too! I was under the weather all last week with a sinus infection. Finally feeling better. Maybe I'll see you again in Sonoma for Sheana's shindig?

Cristie said...

Great post - such fun news! I had to share it on FB & Twitter. Love how Wisconsin cheesemakers innovate the whey to green!