Business and Industry, Design-Build, Facilities, Green Design, Membranes, Sustainability, United States, Water Reuse
Water + Energy
Solar Power and Recycled Water Make Frito-Lay's Facility a Desert Oasis
PepsiCo and Frito-Lay are pioneers in reducing the effect their operations have on the environment. Since 1979, the snack food giant has implemented numerous conservation programs to shrink its overall environmental footprint. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized a record seven Frito-Lay facilities for preserving natural resources.
Nowhere is this sustainability commitment more important—or evident—than at its manufacturing plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, USA. In this arid region, Frito-Lay completed a flagship project with the ambitious goal to run the plant almost entirely on renewable energy and recycled water while producing nearly zero waste—something the company refers to as “Near Net Zero.”
Making Water and Sunshine Work Harder
For their precedent-setting initiative, Frito-Lay collaborated with CDM Smith to integrate state-of-the-art technology and best practices applied at other Frito-Lay plants. CDM Smith completed the design and construction of the 650,000-gallon-per-day process water recovery treatment system, which recycles up to 75 percent of the facility’s process water—enabling Frito-Lay to reduce its annual water use by 100 million gallons.
The advanced purification system incorporates screening, sedimentation, membrane bioreactor, activated carbon, ultraviolet disinfection, low-pressure reverse osmosis, water stabilization and chlorine disinfection to treat the effluent to EPA primary and secondary drinking water quality standards, allowing it to be reused to wash and move potatoes and corn. “This is the first U.S. food processing plant that produces drinking water quality process water to be reused in food production,” describes Al Goodman, CDM Smith principal client service manager. “It demonstrates to the food and beverage industry that this is a viable and environmentally friendly process, especially for water-limited facilities.”
The facility also freed up land, previously used for the pre-treatment and land application of wastewater, for a 5-megawatt photovoltaic solar system that produces almost all of the plant’s daytime electricity needs. CDM Smith performed partial design and complete solar installation. It is little wonder that Frito-Lay proudly calls Casa Grande an oasis in the middle of a desert. “What better place to debut a model that runs almost entirely on recycled water and the sun than in one of the driest places on Earth?” touts Al Halvorsen, senior director of environmental sustainability, PepsiCo. “You see a lot of companies going green to change their image. For us, sustainability is about increasing productivity, improving the environment and preparing for the future.”
Delivering Through Design-Build
From the project’s inception, CDM Smith's wastewater and construction experts partnered with Frito-Lay’s environmental and corporate staff to select the best components, layout and installation approach. “We were working at a continuously operating food processing facility, so close coordination helped ensure compliance, consensus and flexibility, while maintaining a fast-track schedule,” notes Steve Neil, CDM Smith lead construction superintendent.
Challenges included constructing the uniquely engineered, concentric-ringed bioreactor; tying the new system into the existing facility’s effluent and influent; and coordinating activities around Frito-Lay food deliveries and the Arizona heat. Explains Neil, “Constant communication with vendors, contractors and Frito-Lay—along with the use of our design-build center in Phoenix—allowed us to listen to everyone’s input, be responsive and deliver a world-class project without disrupting operations.”
Building on the success of the treatment facility, CDM Smith constructed the solar installation. Along with designing the main duct bank and power feeds, CDM Smith completed the entire photovoltaic solar installation, including 36 acres of photovoltaic panels on dual-axis ground-mount systems, single-axis concentrated photovoltaic collectors, and dish collectors with Stirling© engine generators. CDM Smith also installed more than five thousand 15-foot steel posts using non-traditional vibratory driving rams at a rapid pace—one every 4 minutes.
Benefitting the Environment
Casa Grande was the first snack food manufacturing facility in the United States to be awarded LEED® Existing Building Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, thanks to educational elements, enhanced process layout and energy-efficient motors. “We even segregated 80 percent of construction debris, such as PVC pipe, rebar and wood crates, and recycled it for beneficial reuse,” adds Neil. Combined with dewatered potato peelings and corn kernels sent to local farms for feedstock, and recovered potato starch sold for other manufacturing uses, the facility sends less than 1 percent of its overall waste to landfills.
“Our two organizations share a similar commitment to preserving natural resources, and this project was a unique opportunity to work with a company that truly endorses sustainability and wants to lessen their footprint,” states Goodman. “Lessons learned here can be used across the PepsiCo system,” says Halvorsen. “This new facility is helping us achieve our Near Net Zero goals by allowing us to reduce dependency on the municipal water supply and electric grid—a significant environmental benefit in this desert region.”