The Speyside area of the Scottish Highlands is home to around 50 whisky distilleries. Rothes, in the heart of that region, is the site of a new, blended-biomass plant that generates heat and power for local communities. It works by burning draff (the spent grains used in the distilling process) with woodchips to create steam-generating electricity.
“We generate 8.3 megawatts of electricity every hour of every day. We use some onsite and export the rest – enough for 20,000 people in 8,000 homes,” explains Frank Burns, Managing Director, Rothes CoRDe. “We are powering all of the local communities.”
The Rothes CoRDe, part-owned by The Combination of Rothes Distillers, is a facility that produces enough energy to power entire communities of neighboring distilleries. “A number of whisky companies are part of an industry consortium looking at sustainable ways of processing by-products from our distilleries,” says Iain Lochhead, Operations Director for John Dewar & Sons Ltd., part of the Bacardi group of companies.
In addition to reusing the draff, local distillers are converting pot ale – the residue from copper whisky stills – into organic feedstock that farmers use for their animals. “By recovering by-products from our distilleries, we turn them into material of purpose and value,” adds Burns. “Ultimately, everything we make, whether it’s animal feed – or even the ash from our boiler process – goes back to the land or to the farm.”
“In the end, we want to take this industry forward, to invest and grow, but also make sure we preserve the natural environment we rely on to support Scotch whisky for many years to come,” says David Williamson of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).