Greek Yogurt as a New Power Source

Staff Writer
Wastewater plants in upstate N.Y. are finding ways to harness the power of toxic whey to make electricity

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

You may know that Greek yogurt is a great, popular way to stay full and fuel your body’s energy, but did you also know that this popular snack is also being used to generate electricity?

As Greek yogurt becomes more popular, researchers have begun searching for ways to make valuable use of the mass amounts of toxic whey, a watery, acidic byproduct of Greek yogurt production that would otherwise harm the environment.

While previous solutions included shipping the whey to local farms to mix into their fertilizer, the Gloversville-Johnstown wastewater plant near Albany, N.Y. has initiated a new plan to use the byproduct from the nearby Fage Greek yogurt factory to produce enough methane gas to power the plant. This initiative could help to offset 90 percent of the plant’s $500,000 per year electricity bill.

Using the whey byproduct to generate power and to replace protein and energy nutrient requirements that would otherwise need to be met with more expensive feed alternatives has proved to be a cost efficient and environmentally friendly way to address the increasing presence of toxic whey.

At New York’s 2013 Yogurt Summit, one Greek yogurt producer claimed, “If we can figure out how to handle acid whey, we’ll become a hero.” By finding a way to channel the toxicity of the acidic whey into a viable power source, the Gloversville-Johnstown wastewater plant and others of its kind are earning the title of resourceful heroes.

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When it comes to making Greek yogurt as good for the environment as it is for your health, where there’s a will, there’s a "whey" to make a difference.