The new heat recovery system at Wensleydale Creamery

A green approach is key at the Wensleydale Creamery’s location

Wensleydale Creamery, situated in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is surrounded by drystone walls and rolling pastures where cows graze on lush grass. This idyllic setting is where the world-famous Wensleydale Cheese is made and its visitor centre has become the home of the UK’s flagship cheese experiences.

Green approach

Respecting the environment and appreciating the people and heritage that surrounds Wensleydale Creamery is extremely important. The best milk used for making cheese is sourced from a group of dedicated local farmers whose skill, hard work and passion is reflected in the quality of the milk they produce.

They’re all Red Tractor Farm Assured too, guaranteeing the high standards that they work to. Many of the farmers have been herding cows for generations. They’re often from family businesses with herds roughly half the size of the national average. By supporting a strong, sustainable future for them and their families, Wensleydale Creamery is protecting a unique local farming culture in its community.

Given its breathtaking surroundings in the national park, the creamery recognises the love for this beautiful area and the importance of protecting the environment. Through the installation of whey-processing equipment, the business supplies whey permeate, a by-product of the cheese-making process to be converted into green energy to supply local homes, which also reduces its water consumption by 50%.

The creamery is constructed from high-performance insulation to reduce energy consumption. It has a calcareous green roof, which makes a positive contribution to local biodiversity, in addition to improved insulation, reduced heat loss in winter and heat gains in summer. It also reduces noise from heavy rainfall and rain water run-off.

Through the sourcing of local milk, being a major provider of rural jobs, and operating one of the top tourist destinations in the Yorkshire Dales, Wensleydale Creamery is truly a community-based business, contributing significantly to the local, deeply rural, economy.

The creamery is situated in prime farmland in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Sustainable solution

Wensleydale Creamery’s visitor centre offers guests an interactive experience that takes them through the steps of cheese making – an art with a thousand-year history in the Dales.

Visitors can watch Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese being crafted from a viewing gallery as experienced and knowledgeable experts craft the cheese by hand, in addition to making butter.

Food manufacturers demand a constant flow of hot water during production and clean-down. As a company that focuses on the environment, the creamery opted for a sustainable solution when choosing a hot water heating system for the new visitor centre.

A Heat Hog from DK Heat Recovery was installed that captures the waste heat from the centre’s refrigeration units to heat all the water for free. Hot water production using a heat recovery system is usually uniform so, to accommodate peaks, a greater storage capacity is required.

“A 500-litre tank with integral heat exchangers and a 36kW capacity was fitted up-stream of the boiler to provide the unchanged heating system with pre-heated water at 50°C,” explains David Haughton, engineering manager at DK Heat Recovery. “This means that either the existing boiler will have nothing to do, or it will operate at a lighter load. Keeping the original boiler in place will reduce installation costs and provide a backup should the refrigeration system be switched off for any reason.”

A 36kW system with a 500-litre storage tank can produce 720 litres of hot water at 50°C every hour to cope with the continuous water demand and 500 litres of water ready to cope with the peak demands.

“The system is simplicity itself – maintenance free, having no moving parts, and is highly efficient due to the innovative design of the heat exchangers that can remove up to 100% of the energy produced by the refrigeration plant,” explains Haughton. “Wensleydale Creamery’s visitor centre can not only boast its commitment to carbon reduction, it also enjoys a supply of free hot water for life.”

The visitor centre with interactive experiences

Cool system

As contradictory as it may seem, refrigeration systems are one of the most efficient forms of heating – just look at heat pumps. However, most businesses that use refrigeration equipment are only concerned with the cooling aspect of the system.

“A refrigeration system with an energy consumption of 1kW will dissipate 4kW of unwanted waste heat to atmosphere,” explains Haughton. “This waste heat is from a combination of sources including the heat being extracted from the product being cooled and the refrigeration compressor itself. The typical temperature of the refrigerant discharge gas (the heat source) is around 90°C, which is very hot considering that showers are normally set at 38°C.”

Placing a heat exchanger between the compressor and the point of the traditional waste heat elimination point enables it to recover much of the heat previously lost.

“If we go back to the 4kW of unwanted heat for a moment and consider this figure in terms of hot water production using this valuable free energy source – we can now view this as the ability to produce 80 litres of hot water per hour,” says Haughton. “The effect of installing a heat exchanger will be instantly noticeable in terms of hot water boiler fuel consumption and CO2 reductions.”

Using energy from the refrigeration system to provide free hot water

Serious savings

The visitor centre provides an educational environment for children to learn about energy conservation and sustainability, so the capital cost was funded using a grant from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority, which helped.

“The saving in energy used just for providing hot water for visitors and centre staff equates to over 60,000 kilowatts per annum, saving approximately £4,500 per year,” Haughton reveals. “The payback period when it was fitted with the then much lower energy prices was an incredible 1.7 years. Providing free hot water for the life of the visitor centre was the goal, but from an environmental perspective the installation reduces the carbon footprint of the site by 16 tonnes of CO2 a year with further reductions due to the reduced number of oil delivery vehicles visiting.”

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