Near Net Zero Reached at Frito-Lay Plant

frito-lay plant solar carports image

Five solar installations produce 10 million kilowatt-hours of power. Photos from Frito-Lay

If only more existing buildings would go "net zero". The Empire State Building has saved 40% in energy costs with a major retrofit. Now a Frito-Lay facility, a division of Pepsi-Co, is close to taking an existing plant off-the-grid. Even if the ultimate aim is to cuts costs, the result is that it now runs substantially on renewable energy and recycled water to achieve what it claims is the "greenest" manufacturing facility in the U.S.

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Membrane Bio Reactor with Low-Pressure Reverse Osmosis recovers/recycles up to 75% of the water at the manufacturing plant.

This week, after reaching its sustainable goals, the company unveiled changes to the Casa Grande, Arizona plant, a 188,000-square foot building on 202 acres of land, and the first food plant to achieve LEED Existing Building Gold Certification. Though I'm no fan of Cheetos and other fat-, salt- and sugar-laden snacks, this provides a model transformation that shows what can-and should--be done to create a significant impact if more existing buildings made the commitment.

The facility now generates two-thirds of its energy from renewable sources in an effort to reduce 50% in greenhouse gases, recycle 75% of the water and reduce the natural gas use by 80%. Frito-Lay installed five solar arrays, a biomass boiler and other technologies to reduce the site's environmental footprint. "Frito-Lay set out to create an environmental learning lab in our Casa Grande plant," said Al Halvorsen, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability for Frito-Lay.

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Frito-Lay Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability Al Halvorsen at one of the solar installations at Casa Grande, Arizona facility.

Here are the details:
• Water Reduction: a water recovery and reuse system combines a Membrane Bio Reactor with Low-Pressure Reverse Osmosis technologies to recycle up to 75% of the water meeting EPA drinking water standards.
• Electricity Reduction: five solar photovoltaic installations on the property produce about 10 million kilowatt-hours of power. Two of the solar fields spread over 36 acres of agricultural property and another covers a parking lot.
• Natural Gas Reduction: a new biomass boiler produces steam for its energy source to reduce natural gas usage by more than 80%.
• Zero Landfill: Since 2010, between recycling and using food waste as cattle feed, the Casa Grande plant sends less than 1% of its waste to landfill.

Buildings in the U.S. are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption and 13% of water consumption, as the company's press release states. Beyond energy use and the environment, Pepsi-Co's CEO Indra Nooyi offered a taste of some intriguing ideas her company has cooked up, in a profile last May in The New Yorker, "Snacks for a Fat Planet," including the reduction of sugar and salt, and the future of healthier snacks.

More on Net Zero:
Beyond LEED to Net Zero Energy
Every California House a Zero Net Energy Building?
Zero Net Energy zHome is "A Model For Mainstream Housing In The Future"

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