This is a long piece so we will present in two parts. However, it is worth your time and effort. The business world can make or break our green efforts, given their size and influence on society. We need their buy-in, and getting McDonalds to invest in seeking net-zero on their facilities is almost astounding in ambition. We hope to talk to them, and their partners in this, as well.
As you will see at the end of the article, they have lots of other worthy goals in pursuit of their company transformation. We wish them the very best, and hope it is a true spring board to their future success.
From the Rocky Mountain Institute
Not many people associate fast food with clean energy. But that’s exactly what one of the largest quick-service restaurants in the world is exploring. RMI recently completed a net-zero-energy study forMcDonald’s, which explores how to offset the energy consumption of an entire restaurant with renewable energy.
Working alongside the net-zero-energy visionaries at New Buildings Institute (NBI) and kitchen equipment experts at Fisher-Nickel, Inc., RMI looked critically at the technical and financial feasibility of achieving net-zero energy for a McDonald’s restaurant. The study builds on previous work performed by a group of Duke University graduate students (with support from RMI), in tandem with prior energy-efficiency studies and LEED designs developed by McDonald’s.To achieve net-zero energy (NZE), a McDonald’s restaurant must offset its energy consumption with on-site renewable energy generation on an annual basis. Restaurants have a high energy density (a lot of energy used within a small physical footprint), which makes them challenging candidates for net-zero energy. High energy density requires a costly solar system, making energy efficiency critical to reaching net-zero energy on a standard site with reasonable first costs. The study reveals a number of energy-efficiency opportunities throughout the building, and more thoroughly examines kitchen equipment, which is the most significant building energy end-use in a McDonald’s restaurant.
INCREASING BURGER EFFICIENCY
So what is the minimum amount of energy required to cook a burger? A side of fries? What about the energy used to keep your drink cold? Based on the study, kitchen equipment represents the greatest opportunity for energy savings, as it can consume more than 50 percent of the energy in a new McDonald’s restaurant. By considering the minimum amount of energy required to cook each menu item and comparing this with actual kitchen equipment energy consumption, the RMI team uncovered both near-term and future kitchen equipment upgrades that can cut kitchen energy use in half. The team’s analysis uncovers opportunities to reduce idle energy consumption (equipment energy consumption when food items are not being cooked) and increase overall kitchen equipment efficiency without substantially changing McDonald’s operations.
McDonald’s has been driving its kitchen equipment suppliers to improve energy efficiency for years, and the company currently encourages the use of low-oil-volume fryers and custom exhaust hoods that make ventilation more efficient (which also reduces heating and cooling loads). However, more opportunity exists—both in the kitchen and throughout the building. With the results of this study, the McDonald’s team can work with key equipment suppliers to focus on improving the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment and combining pieces of equipment where practical.
In considering net-zero energy, the team did not focus on burger production alone. The menu has other items, and the building has other needs, such as keeping its customers and employees comfortable. The team took an integrative, whole-systems approach to understanding the ways that building systems interact, and leveraging the interactions between building systems.
While the kitchen may be the primary energy consumer, other building systems, including HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), play a key role in achieving net-zero energy. HVAC energy consumption is very closely tied to kitchen equipment energy consumption. Not only does the kitchen equipment heat its surroundings, but the cooking process requires mechanical ventilation to maintain indoor air quality. The use of targeted ventilation strategies, paired with solar thermal, geothermal, and waste heat loops, could save up to 90–95 percent of HVAC system energy in a NZE store. The team’s strategy also consolidates HVAC and refrigeration equipment and uses advanced control strategies wherever possible to reduce equipment capital costs while reducing system energy consumption....