Fonterra’s South Otago cheese manufacturing plant at Stirling will from next year be coal-free and the co-operative’s first site to be totally powered by renewable thermal energy.
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The shift to using wood biomass from August next year will cost $10 million but remove 18,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Fonterra’s lower South Island operations manager Richard Gray says in a statement the investment will also reduce wastewater, noise, solid waste to landfill and air discharge emissions.

It will create 10 extra jobs in the biomass industry.

The wood biomass will be sourced by Pioneer Energy, owned locally by Central Lakes Trust.

Pioneer Energy chief executive Fraser Jonker says his company has a proven record for installing new and the conversion of existing boilers to biomass.

It also operates its own wood fuel division.

Stirling, which exports cheese to more than 10 countries, is Fonterra’s third plant to switch to a new energy source in three years. 

The conversion of Fonterra’s Te Awamutu site to wood pellets has resulted in a 10% reduction in the co-op’s coal use and the Brightwater plant at the top of the South Island is co-firing wood biomass. 

Fonterra says in a statement that when these sites are combined with other energy efficiency work, the co-op’s emissions will be lowered by 135,000t, the equivalent of taking close to 52,000 cars off the road.

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