General Mills Minimizes their Impact
In fiscal year 2010, General Mills announced a 6 percent reduction in its energy consumption rate over five years (from the 2005 baseline). While progress fell short of the 15 percent goal, several of the company’s businesses successfully achieved double-digit energy reductions by the end of fiscal year 2010.
General Mills also has achieved a reduction in energy consumption, in part, by investing in renewable energy at facilities and by identifying new and innovative ways to save energy. General Mills’ plant in San Adrian, Spain, now gets 100 percent of its electricity from a utility company that uses only renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
General Mills has committed to a 20 percent reduction in its energy usage rate by the year 2015 from a 2005 baseline. In order to reach this goal, General Mills will continue to use renewable resources where feasible and embed smart energy-saving technology into the company’s manufacturing culture.
As General Mills strives to cut energy usage across its facilities, the company also faces the challenge of meeting consumer demand for products, such as cereal and granola bars, that require more cooking or toasting during production and in turn, require more energy. Despite this challenge, the company is committed to meeting the 20 percent goal — and believes it is attainable — as energy savings systems and procedures have become widely embraced by employees.
General Mills’ distribution center in Methuen, Mass., became the first General Mills facility in the United States to produce its own electricity from solar panels. The panels atop the warehouse produce enough electricity to supply 55 percent of the facility’s annual electricity needs — 80 percent of its consumption in the summer and 40 percent during the rest of the year.
Oat hulls, which are left over from the making of Cheerios and other products, are a renewable energy source. Oat hulls generate about as much BTU (a unit of energy) as bituminous coal, and they burn just as efficiently. General Mills’ Fridley, Minn., flour mill began burning oat hulls in December 2010. The oat hulls now provide nearly 90 percent of the steam needed to heat the plant and produce oat flour, serving as a cleaner and more sustainable form of energy for the facility. Burning the oat hulls saves nearly $400,000 per year and cuts the plant’s carbon footprint by approximately 20 percent. Oat hulls not used by the facility are burned by a Minnesota-based biomass plant, generating enough electricity to power approximately 17,000 homes.
In order to identify energy saving opportunities at the General Mills Covington, Ga., plant, the energy team installed 23 energy meters on several pieces of major equipment. The meters enabled the Covington team to better understand the impact of system changes using real-time energy consumption data. In one case, fixing leaking steam coils, a bad air flow sensor and a steam regulator cut the hourly cost of operating a device by well over half. The metering project led to an annual savings of more than $600,000. The facility is now more sustainable and energy efficient.