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Project Acronym: CASEUS

Project Name: CASEUS - Combined use of renewAble energy sources to improve energy efficiency in cheeSE indUStry

Activity years: 2023 - 2026

Funding: PRR PROJETOS I&D+I – Transição Agroenergética: Investimento RE-C05-i03


Reference:  PRR-C05-i03-I-000249

Host Institution: : Instituto Politécnico de Beja (IPBeja)

Researchers (ISEL):

Professor João Garcia (Researcher in charge/ISEL) ORCID: 0000-0002-7181-6408

Professor Nuno Serra ORCID: 0000-0002- 6656-6926


The CASEUS project - Combined use of renewable energy sources to improve energy efficiency in the cheese industry, consists of a multidisciplinary partnership involving the following work areas: (1) Technological diagnosis: This includes the participation of artisanal cheese dairies located in Baixo Alentejo and Beira Baixa, where the production of goat cheese follows local practices. Data on electrical energy consumption in the ripening chamber compressors will be collected, and an estimation of gas consumption for milk heating and ricotta production will be made. Simultaneously, temperature and humidity sensors will be placed inside the ripening chambers and outside the production unit to record local climatic conditions. (2) System architecture optimization: This involves studying the most influential variables in temperature stability and energy consumption in the cheese maturation chamber. The combined use optimization of electrical energy sources (photovoltaic and wind) and thermal energy sources (solar hot water and biomass) in different stages of production will be examined. Additionally, the use of phase change materials (PCM) will be considered for regulating the ripening chamber's temperature. (3) Construction of a cheese dairy prototype: Based on the results of task 2, a cheese dairy prototype will be implemented using thermal and electrical energy obtained from renewable sources. The ripening chamber will be equipped with a continuous monitoring system for environmental conditions, including temperature and humidity. The system will include the installation of current meters (compressor, fans, and other electrical devices), biomass consumption meters (boiler), and water consumption meters (ripening chamber piping, coagulation tank, and ricotta tank) to perform an energy balance. The monitoring system architecture will have a set of sensors that collect data from the prototype, which will be sent via WiFi to the gateway and subsequently, through the Internet, to the server. (4) Impact of the prototype on biochemical, microbiological, and sensory properties of cheese: This analysis will include rheological, color, chemical, biochemical, sensory, and microbiological parameters. (5) Dissemination of results: The consortium will create a Facebook page with its identification, providing updates on ongoing work, including multimedia content and testimonials from different partners. A final seminar (in-person and online) will be conducted at the end of the project to present the prototype and the main results achieved. The key project outcomes will be published in a book to be disseminated among the academic community and local partners, such as associations and cheese producers. The main areas of project development are: (1) Energy diagnosis: Monitoring energy consumption and temperature variation inside the ripening chambers is essential for an objective energy diagnosis in the context of cheese dairy. The energy performance evaluation will be done by placing sensors capable of real-time data recording and storage to evaluate temperature and humidity inside the ripening chambers, consumption of gaseous or liquid fuels, and electrical energy consumption throughout the ripening cycle. (2) Process engineering and system architecture: The elaboration of a Process and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID) is a fundamental tool for subsequent stages, such as the design and mapping of instrumentation and equipment control systems, requiring the definition of measurement and data recording points. The system's architecture requires optimizing an integrated solution of various energy forms based on the production and ripening energy needs of the cheese, identifying manufacturing equipment, actuators, milk, and thermal fluid transport pumps. Subsequently, energy needs throughout the production cycle will be identified and quantified, replacing conventional energy sources with renewable energy sources according to their immediate availability. (3) Laboratory analysis: The cheese maturation process involves a sequence of biochemical changes caused by environmental conditions and microbial flora, impacting the physical-chemical, microbiological, and sensory characteristics of the final product. Therefore, pilot tests on sheep and goat cheese ripening are required to assess the impact of renewable energy sources on the product's characteristics. Physical, chemical, and microbiological characterization of cheese batches produced in the prototype compared to their ripening in a conventional chamber are planned. (4) Results dissemination: Information and communication technologies (ICT) have become increasingly important, and their use in the consortium is essential for an effective dissemination of results to the community. In the current dematerialized communication paradigm, the use of digital tools is planned to enable faster and wider dissemination, such as presence on social networks and the creation of multimedia content. However, since physical presence in the community is also essential, a final workshop is planned to present the prototype to the community.