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Baking giant stakes its future on microgrids.

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

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  • Mar 29, 2022
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Bimbo Bakeries USA has a plan to go net-zero carbon by 2050, a decision that is as much a business move as one directed toward environmental sustainability. Of course, these sort of corporate claims are nothing new or newsworthy. But how Bimbo Bakeries will go out about it is significant. 

The company announced last week that they are going to build onsite microgrids with solar arrays and battery storage at six of its California bakeries, where energy usage is high and the price of energy is rising. Bakeries in Montebello, Placentia, Oxnard, San Luis Obispo, South San Francisco and Sacramento will receive the new zero-carbon energy systems, scaling much of California. 

According to the company, the systems will reduce carbon emissions at the sites by 25% and, similarly, will provide about a quarter of the sites’ energy needs.

“Bimbo Bakeries USA’s actions have made it very clear that they are going to lead the market when it comes to sustainability,” said Jose Lorenzo, chief executive of GreenStruxure, the company tasked with designing and building the microgrids. “On-site energy systems are BimboBakeries USA’s best option to decarbonize and fulfill their long-term sustainability targets with optimized cost. We launched GreenStruxure to work with companies like Bimbo Bakeries USA to bring our no hassle, modular, standardized approach to these facilities and more in the U.S.”

The decision marks a significant commitment by a company to directly reduce the impact of its own operations. We see a lot of companies today preaching net-zero, but relying on virtual power purchase agreements to reach those goals, which do nothing to actually reduce the impact of the company’s operations. Although these VPPAs make good business sense in heading the cost of electricity and promoting the development of renewable energy resources, it’s not clear that they do anything for onsite sustainability. It’s similar to knocking a forest and destroying animal habitat to start a business, but then financially supporting the planting of a forest habitat somewhere else. The money does much of the work. In the short term, that might soothe some pressure since it’s better than doing nothing, but it’s certainly not the long term answer to sustainability. 

Microgrids might be the long term answer, at least part of it, when it comes to what large corporations and large power users can do. The U.S. military recently released a plan to put microgrids on all of its bases within the next 15 years. Microgrids are popping up as the energy nucleus for new subdivisions, but there has been little momentum of microgrids in the corporate campus world. Bimbo’s move might inspire a shift, and there is no better place to do that than in California, where overloading continues to be an issue. 

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