Last month, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services green lighted the project to give it a more permanent footing, and it involves Lindt shipping about 15 tonnes a month of shells to the Schiller Station power plant in Portsmouth.
The confectioner and the electricity utility initiated a pilot programme in March 2009 to trial the use of cocoa bean shells in fuel and see if the chocolate making by-product and coal could actually be combined.
A test burn of cocoa shells “which are designated by the state of New Hampshire as a biomass fuel” demonstrated that a 30:1 blend of coal and cocoa shells can be successfully integrated in one of the power plant’s two existing coal boilers.
The Lindt plant in Stratham now incorporates the chocolate production process, with construction on its expanded facility completed last month.
Previously, Lindt & Sprungli plants in Europe had processed the chocolate that Lindt USA used. The chocolate was shipped in the form of huge blocks across the Atlantic to its Stratham facility in New Hampshire.
However, Lindt USA now imports the beans directly from source and produce its own chocolate from raw cocoa beans at Stratham, managing the chocolate-making process from raw material to final product.
And a Lindt spokesperson told ConfectioneryNews.com previously that the roasting plant extension will be utilized to meet all of Lindt USA’s domestically produced chocolate needs.
“This programme is a win-win," noted Thomas Linemayr, CEO of Lindt USA. "We are reducing our own carbon impact by shortening the production process, and now by disposing of a byproduct in a responsible manner that benefits PSNH and its customers."
Although shells from some competitors are reused as garden mulch, Linemayr said that the company is not aware of any other cocoa-bean-shell-to-energy projects in the US chocolate industry.
PSNH said the addition of cocoa bean shells to its fuel mix is not expected to bring any significant changes to the Schiller Station but Bill Smagula, the Public Service of New Hampshire director of generation maintains that: “It will allow us to replace a portion of coal with a portion of biomass, and that's another step in the right direction."
Companies are starting to take another look at waste as by-products from food production pose a major problem to industry and disposal can be costly.
At the same time scientific studies have previously suggested that cocoa husks, a by-product of cocoa processing, could be used as an ingredient in food.
Researchers have shown that the husks may offer an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient source of pectin for food, which is an alternative to sourcing the ingredient from citrus peel and apple pomace.
And a separate study found that the husks could offer a valuable source of dietary fibre for the low-calorie food segment. In addition to being rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, the husks also contain antioxidant compounds that open up possibilities for health and preservatives.