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Fonterra has announced plans to phase out coal use at its Stirling cheese plant in Otago.
Stirling will be coal free and using wood biomass to fire the site by August next year.
It will be the co-op's first 100 per cent renewable thermal energy site and also its first South Island site to exit coal entirely, Fonterra's Managing Director Co-operative Affairs, Mike Cronin said.
"I don't know if you've down to Stirling, but it's a fantastic little cheese plant near Balclutha - it's got a really good cheese shop too if you're passing by," he told The Country Sport Breakfast's Brian Kelly.
Stirling also had a good range of customers and supplied cheese to ten countries, including South Korea and Japan.
By switching to wood biomass, the site's annual emissions would reduce by 18,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of taking more than 7,000 cars off the road, Cronin said.
While the most obvious gain from switching to wood biomass was being coal free, there were other benefits as well.
"There's quite a sizable reduction in waste water, it's not as noisy, there's less solid waste in landfill and our air discharge emissions have improved as well."
Going coal free also supported the community, as the wood biomass was being sourced from Pioneer Energy.
"They're owned by the Central Lakes Trust and they distribute grants to charitable causes in the Central Otago region," Cronin said.
"So it's a nice little circle of giving back to the community down there."
Making the switch was also beneficial for the economy, as it would see a further 10 jobs created through the wood biomass industry locally, as well as contributing more than $10 million into the region on the whole.
Stirling was not the only significant fuel switching project Fonterra had undertaken recently.
This week started off with the opening of the wood pellet boiler at the co-op's Te Awamutu site by Minister for Energy and Resources Hon Dr Megan Woods.
This change to wood pellets resulted in a 10 per cent reduction in the site's coal use.
Meanwhile, at the top of the South Island, the team was already co-firing wood biomass at Fonterra's Brightwater site.
Alongside Stirling, these two projects, when combined with other energy efficiency work, would reduce the co-op's emissions by 135,000 tonnes - the equivalent of taking close to 52,000 cars off the road, Cronin said.
"We're starting to get a bit obsessed with taking cars of the road! But it really makes it real I think."
The changes all contributed to Fonterra's commitment to get out of coal by 2037, Cronin said.
"It's nice to be seeing that 2037 target to exit coal is very achievable."