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Macallan Distillery Cleans Up Its Act with £74M Clean Energy Investment

The Macallan, one of the world’s most famous whisky distilleries, has launched a new £74m clean energy project at its facility in Speyside, Scotland, which is expected to produce enough energy to heat the plant as well as power 20,000 local homes.

The project was launched in a collaboration between John Laing and the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB). The new plant, developed by Estover Energy, is a biomass combined heat and power facility. According to GIB, the plant will be fuelled with sustainable forestry by-product sourced locally from one of the UK’s most productive forestry areas.

The plant is expected to generate 87.4 GWh of renewable electricity and 76.8 GWh of renewable heat, every year — with carbon savings equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off the road, according to the BBC.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "The Speyside guarantee is fantastic news for Scotland's economic future. It will power thousands of homes with clean energy, and also support the whisky industry, a cornerstone of our economy which brings in billions for Scotland and employs over 10,000 people."

The whisky market is big business in Scotland, and the new plant will provide roughly 90 percent of the heat for the world-renowned Macallan distillery in Craigellachie. Macallan will use heat from the plant in the form of steam to reduce its carbon emissions.

It’s hoped that the facility will generate a range of positive environmental and social impacts in the transition to cleaner energy sources — including a major boost to Scotland’s economy and the creation of local jobs (it’s thought that 123 jobs will be created during its construction).

"With £3.8bn of funding, the UK Green Investment Bank has been set up to help businesses make the transition to a green economy right across the country. This investment in Speyside will not only help secure jobs, boost a vital industry and support the local supply chain but also generate renewable energy for homes in Scotland,” UK Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC.

"Today, over £1bn of infrastructure projects have now been brought forward as a result of the UK guarantees scheme and £36bn worth of projects are pre-qualified,” Alexander added. “Our action is creating the right conditions for more investment in our infrastructure and helping to build a stronger economy."

This is just the latest GIB investment into cleaner energy sources in the country’s distilleries. In May, the Bank invested £1.2m in a biomass-fuelled boiler system to replace the old heavy-fuel burners at Bacardi Limited’s Aberfeldy distillery (maker of Dewar’s) in Perthshire, which is projected to reduce the facility’s carbon footprint by up to 90 percent.

The GIB’s chairman, Lord Smith of Kelvin, told the BBC these investments were a “great example of the benefits of renewable energy.”

"It generates power from a sustainable source, reducing the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. It generates heat for a local business, the iconic Macallan distillery, helping to save it money and reduce its carbon footprint. It supports local landowners who are providing much of the fuel. And it creates and supports local jobs. This will be a significant investment in Scotland's rural economy, creating modern, green infrastructure that will benefit local people as well as the environment."

The whisky distillation process is tremendously wasteful; only ten percent of what comes from a distillery is consumed. The majority of the by-products — known as draff (a residue of grains: barley, rye, wheat and sometimes corn) and pot ale (residue leftover in casks) — are generally discarded, wasting a valuable resource and affecting the distillery’s bottom line. An Edinburgh-based startup called Celtic Renewables has set about putting that waste to good use by converting it into biofuel — in June 2013, independent malt whisky producer Tullibardine became the first distillery to partner with the company for conversion of its waste into biobutanol, which produces roughly 25 percent more energy by volume than its competitor, ethanol.

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