‘Green’ whisky coming in UK

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Whisky distilleries need to blend renewable energy with heat or electricity storage to reach net zero, a new study has found.

The study from Heriot-Watt University based on modelling of a typical medium-size distillery with a million bottles per year production found that the size of the local demand, installed generation capacity and storage capacity need to be carefully matched to realise that potential.

If the generation is small compared to the onsite demand, then it provides a small reduction in load while any storage device will only be occasionally used. If, however, the generation is very large, then the local benefit is dwarfed by the excess electricity generation which would need to be exported.

Whisky is considered one of the most energy-intensive products in the food and drink production sector and for example, uses seven times more energy than gin to make.

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The industry has started moving towards cleaner energy use, with over 20% from non-fossil fuels in 2018, compared to under 3% in 2008.

“We developed a model that can help distilleries of all sizes decide which system will help them make the most of renewable energy,” says Dr Wolf-Gerrit Fruh from Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Mechanical, Energy and Process Engineering, who led the research.

“In most cases, we found that the best combination includes more than one resource: wind turbines and solar panels combined with batteries and heat storage. Island or coastal distilleries of course might have access to wave or tidal energy.”

The research, which was based on a ‘whole system’ approach, was funded through the UK government’s Greener Distilleries funding scheme to support decarbonisation of the distilleries.

The research team is now engaging with distilleries to install a demonstration system to show how renewable energy, batteries and heat batteries perform on site.