The project in Casa Grande, Ariz., was part of a broader effort by PepsiCo. to explore “performance with purpose,” said Phillips. The specific site was chosen because of its location in the desert, where water is scarce and solar power abundant.
Creating a facility with “near-net-zero” impact was an audacious undertaking, says Halvorsen. Many disciplines within the company were recruited to make the project a success.
Water was an obvious place to start. Beyond urging workers on site to conserve as much as possible, PepsiCo employed engineers to install special filters that would allow for the reuse of water used in the processing of Frito-Lay’s snack products. In the end, the facility was able to recycle approximately 75 percent of the water that enters the plant for production.
For the production of steam, PepsiCo installed large biomass boilers, which burn used pallet boards and pecan shells (the latter because of the proximity of pecan tree orchards in the area). The technology now generates about 80 percent of the plant’s thermal energy.
The facility also shifted to the use of compressed natural gas and electricity-driven power for some 20,000 road vehicles operating at the plant. Efficient, aerodynamic trailers added to the energy savings realized from running the fleet.
Solar power, obviously, played a big role in the project, providing about half the facility’s electricity needs. The company placed a big emphasis on renewably sourced energy from photovoltaic cells, Halvorsen says.
Benefits to date have been substantial: reductions of 50 percent in greenhouse gas emissions, 75 percent in water usage and 50 percent in electricity, in addition to the savings realized by the biomass boiler.
“We wanted to make Casa Grande a learning lab,” says Halvorsen, calling the site “an incubation center of ideas.”
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