by Cameron Woodworth
This article was originally published in May 2004
PCC vendors make a difference through alternative energy profiles
(May 2004) — With gas prices on a seemingly never-ending upward spiral, alternative energy is increasingly on the minds of businesses and consumers. Three of PCC’s major vendors — Kettle Foods, Traditional Medicinals and White Wave — have announced exciting and pioneering alternative energy programs in the production of their food and drinks.
Kettle Foods, a leading manufacturer of natural snacks in Salem, Oregon, recently converted the roof over its potato chip production line into a solar power plant. Equivalent in size to 50 typical residential solar systems, it is the largest industrial solar installation in the Pacific Northwest.
The 114-kilowatt photovoltaic system boasts 616 solar panels and can generate the equivalent of 25 percent of the company’s electricity demands during peak solar hours and three to five percent of the company’s total electricity demands annually — enough to produce six million bags of potato chips over the next 25 years. “Kettle Foods is always looking for ways to innovate, whether it be a potato chip or some form of alternative energy,” says Marc Cramer, the company’s general manager. “Beyond our ongoing product innovation, our commitment to solar energy is by far our boldest step. We are always looking at opportunities that make sense and are the right thing to do.”
“Solar installations in industrial settings are relatively rare,” says Peter West, renewable energy director for the Energy Trust of Oregon, which is partnering with Kettle Foods on the solar project. “Kettle Foods proves that solar can meet the power demands of industry by providing clean and reliable power. We know this technology works and now this project will help others see that solar energy is good for their business.”
In addition to solar, Kettle Foods purchases wind power through its utility, Portland General Electric, and recycles waste safflower and sunflower oils into biodiesel fuel to power a fleet of vehicles.
Traditional Medicinals, an herbal tea company in Sebastopol, California, and White Wave, the Boulder, Colorado-based maker of the popular Silk soymilk products, also believe in leaving a light footprint. While both companies remain on the power grid, they now purchase 100 percent renewable wind energy to offset their electricity use.
Traditional Medicinals and White Wave both buy tax-deductible “green tags” from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Green tags, also called renewable energy certificates, are created when wind power or other renewable energy is substituted for traditional power. In addition, White Wave buys wind power from Renewable Choice Energy.
Because of the way the power grid works, there is ordinarily no way to know exactly what kind of energy (coal, oil, nuclear, wind, etc.) is reaching a home or business. By purchasing green tags, however, businesses and individuals can, to a certain extent, specify the energy source, since green tags ensure that wind and solar power will be used. This builds the market for wind and solar power and helps the environment.
White Wave says its wind purchases will prevent 32 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the environment each year. That’s the same as taking 3,200 cars off the road, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. White Wave says it is the largest company in the country to replace all of its power used for manufacturing with wind power. Traditional Medicinals estimates that its purchase of green tags is the equivalent of removing 759,00 pounds of greenhouse gases from the environment.
White Wave recently received a Green Power Leadership Purchasing Award from the federal government for its wind power purchases.
“We are proud to have won this award. However, we believe the true winner is the environment,” says Steve Demos, White Wave president and founder. “We hope this sort of recognition will convince other companies that it makes a lot of sense to move to sustainable energy sources.”