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Renewable Energy in the Food Processing Industry

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Jane Marsh's picture

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

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  • May 25, 2021 8:59 pm GMT

President Biden signed the U.S. onto the Paris Agreement during his first day in office. It signifies our sustainable efforts by conserving natural resources and ecological longevity. Many Americans have displayed eco-friendly intentions, investing in electric cars, solar-paneled roofs and wind turbines.

Transformation must also occur in the industrial sector. Many food companies eliminated their pesticide use and placed solar panels on their farms, which are seen as sufficient sustainability measures. However, they can do more.

Food processing facilities contribute a significant quantity of emissions to the atmosphere. Incorporating renewable energy sources into the industry could reduce air pollution and the size of our national carbon footprint.

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Solar Refrigeration

Food processing facilities must refrigerate products, ensuring their safety and freshness. Large-scale cooling harms the environment. Thankfully, solar-powered refrigeration offers a sustainable solution to ecological degradation.

Clean energy-fueled vapor compression helps companies cool their products without carbon emissions. The system connects to a photovoltaic panel, a speed compressor, an insulated chamber and a thermal reservoir. A conversion system transfers solar energy to thermal power.

The compressor maximizes temperature control, efficiently using renewable power. Solar refrigerators can help companies maintain food safety while decreasing their carbon emissions.

Solar Drying

An age-old food preservation method is drying. Current methods use large quantities of energy, processing at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Strong ventilation systems are also necessary to keep out humidity.

Solar drying offers a non-degrading method of food preservation by using the sun's energy as a dehydrating device. It then increases air temperatures and current, speeding drying times. Efficient drying reduces mold and food spoilage. 

Food Waste Biogas

America produces over 70 million tons of organic waste annually, which significantly contributes to landfill space consumption. Fortunately, environmental engineers discovered a sustainable method of energy production from waste.

They generate biogas with old organic materials. Certain bacteria break down plant and animal matter through anaerobic digestion. Companies can utilize this process, responsibly reclaiming food waste and regenerating production power.

The process eliminates food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. As food decomposes in landfills, it releases a combination of methane and carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gas emissions make decomposition centers responsible for 14% of human-generated methane pollution nationally.

If your processing center relies on fossil fuels, you will need to install electric appliances first. Renewable energy produces a current that can fuel an entire facility.

Before investing in clean power, find an industrial electrical contractor. Professionals can design and build your electrically driven processing facility. They may install electric motor systems and power distribution devices, helping renewable energy reach all appliances and machinery. 

Company Commitment

Various food production companies can look to Kettle Foods as a sustainability model. Its renewable energy program contains the largest solar power array in the Pacific Northwest, fueling processing and production machinery. Its 616 solar panels create 120,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. The company can generate 250,000 potato chip bags with the energy it produces on-site.

Other companies are also hopping on the sustainability wagon, meeting consumer demands. Frito-Lay recently installed a solar power system on top of its Arizona Service Center. It is the largest distribution center in America, utilizing large quantities of energy every day. The solar system consists of 1,000 high output modules, generating enough energy to power production.

Electric Transportation

Transportation accounts for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of produce's footprint derives from traveling to and from the processing facility. Electric vehicles can help eliminate transportation's impact on food processing emissions.

Various companies are building electric truck fleets. Environmental engineers design them to travel predictable paths, reaching charging ports at the end of each trip. Nearly 80% of these vehicles travel less than 250 miles, making chargeless trips possible. 

Truck fleets offer promising emission reductions for the food processing sector. Together, renewable energy-driven production and transportation can generate a net-zero industry.

An Eco-Consumer Future

The market must adapt to meet demands as eco-consumerism rises. Food companies must adopt sustainable practices to remain secure against their competitors. Many individuals grow their food, thus shrinking their carbon footprints.

Food brands may also reduce emissions, allowing customers to purchase their products without environmental consequences. Honoring consumer values benefits the economy and Earth's ecology.

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