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Milk: it does a body good. And, thanks to new ultra-clean electricity generation technology, it'll help out a California wastewater plant, too.

The city of Tulare handles loads of “milk waste” from plants that process dairy products. Recently, the public works department realized that instead of letting all that leftover lactose go down the drain, the gunk could be used as a renewable energy source. So, Tulare put out a cattle call for project proposals, and Danbury, Conn.-based FuelCell Energy Inc. bested the rest of the herd.

The company's plan centers on using its direct fuel cell (DFC) technology in a 750-kilowatt power plant that will run off of anaerobic digester gas from the milk waste, electrifying the waste-water facility around the clock.

In addition to saving the city some hay on electricity costs, direct fuel cell technology does its thing without combustion, which cuts harmful emissions and particulates. As a bonus, installing the power plant will save $600,000 in emission-reduction credits that would have been required for more traditional onsite power equipment, such as reciprocating engines.

The plant will be up and running next spring, after which the city will be able to milk it for all it's worth.