PepsiCo’s Tolleson, Ariz. facility recently launched a solar energy expansion project that is producing clean energy and reducing operational costs.

Arizona is one of the best places in the United States to produce solar energy, says Tom Schaefer, director of engineering for PepsiCo Americas Beverages’ Resource Conservation Group.

And Schaefer and his team are taking full advantage of this vast renewable resource to generate clean and inexpensive energy to power PepsiCo’s operations there, and to help PepsiCo reach its goal of a 20 percent per unit of production improvement in energy efficiency in manufacturing facilities by 2015, compared to 2006.[i]

5,600 Rooftop Solar Panels

PepsiCo’s Tolleson, Ariz. facility has been working on a variety of solar projects since 2008.

On March 27, the facility launched a new solar photovoltaic system that converts the sun’s rays into as much as 1.7 megawatts of electricity.  The electricity is channeled into the facility’s substation to power the manufacture and distribution of PepsiCo products such as Gatorade, SoBe, Propel and Lipton Iced Tea. 

“The electricity is used for everything,” said Schaefer.  “The warehouse, the plant – anything that uses electricity.  We’re directly offsetting what we normally would have bought from the electrical grid.”

More than 5,600 flat solar photovoltaic panels adorn the roof of the 900,000 square foot distribution center, which can generate more than three million kilowatt hours annually – enough electricity to power approximately 200 average Arizona homes for an entire year – or over 10 percent of the electricity used by the entire Tolleson facility each year.

And that translates into electricity cost savings for PepsiCo.

The new photovoltaic project was built upon a 500 kilowatt system, installed in 2008, that has produced approximately 900,000 kilowatt hours per year since then, and a solar thermal system installed at Tolleson in three phases beginning 2008.[ii]

The solar thermal system uses a variety of technologies, including flat panels and solar beams, to pre-heat ingredient water for hot-fill products (such as Gatorade, which is heated and pasteurized prior to filling).  

Using a heat exchanger, heat from the solar thermal system is transferred to ingredient water reducing the amount of natural gas that is needed raise ingredient water temperatures. 

According to Schaefer, “the solar thermal system can heat water to nearly 200 degrees during the middle of the day,” and reduces the Tolleson facility’s use of natural gas by approximately 20,000 million BTU’s (20000 MMBtu) per year, or seven percent of natural gas used by the facility on an annual basis.

PepsiCo United Kingdom Also Shines

While Arizona is known for its blue skies and sunshine, the United Kingdom is not.  But PepsiCo United Kingdom’s Copella plant in Boxford is proving that some solar energy generation is possible even in less than optimal conditions.

In March, the Copella plant, which produces a leading apple juice brand in the United Kingdom, installed solar rooftop panels that produce 150 kilowatts of electricity, becoming the first PepsiCo facility in the United Kingdom to generate onsite renewable electricity.

“This project has generated enough electricity in its first week to run an average U.K. home for a whole year,” said Dave Clark, sustainability manager, PepsiCo United Kingdom. “Switching increasingly to renewable energy sources, coupled with the great work our site teams have been doing to reduce energy consumption, is how we will meet our ambitious goals to radically reduce our carbon emissions.

The solar panel project at Boxford is the first of many projects that will help PepsiCo UK to continually increase the percentage of energy coming from renewable sources and reach its goal of becoming fossil fuel-free by 2023 

To learn more about PepsiCo’s sustainability efforts, read out 2012 Sustainability Report and 2012 Global Reporting Initiative, which are available here.


[i] This applies to legacy operations as they existed in 2006, excluding major acquisitions since the baseline year and adjusting for divestitures.

[ii] PepsiCo sold the renewable energy credits (RECs) for much of this energy to the Salt River Project (SRP), our electric utility in Tolleson, to help fund the improvements.  To their credit, SRP retires the RECs ensuring the environmental benefits are not lost.