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Monday, March 30, 2015

Efficiency and Renewables on the Menu for McDonald’s/Part 2

Are we hitting milestones in transformation from fossil-fuel to clean energy that will go down in history as the absolute turning point in building a cleaner, brighter future, the new, industrial revolution we are living today.  Amen.

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
...Building lighting systems are another key area of focus for this study. The study shows up to a 60-percent reduction in lighting energy consumption is possible while also decreasing lighting system capital costs. Improved system design can produce the same light levels as a traditional lighting design using fewer fixtures. Falling LED prices, increasing LED efficiency, and targeted lighting system designs (including natural lighting with skylights) enable this level of energy reduction.
The team uncovered a number of solutions related to the HVAC, lighting, and refrigeration systems, in addition to building envelope, kitchen equipment, and other building load improvements. Where possible, system efficiencies were improved, passive strategies were used, equipment was combined, and waste heat was recovered. Energy efficiency solutions were assessed (using equipment-specific analysis and whole-building energy modeling), prioritized, and packaged into a recommended net-zero energy solution.


The net-zero energy solution recommended to McDonald’s is an all-electric restaurant that would achieve 60 percent energy savings and 90 percent energy cost savings. A 300 kW on-site solar PV system, installed primarily over the parking areas, would provide the energy needed to reach net-zero energy within the footprint of a typical McDonald’s site. The restaurant would offer the same menu and operating hours, and when the sun isn’t shining, it would draw electricity from the utility. While the recommended scenario includes some kitchen technologies that require further development, a separate scenario shows that net-zero energy is achievable today with available technologies at a significant incremental cost.
One of the team’s recommendations is for McDonald’s to pilot an innovative “integrated thermal loop,” that joins solar thermal collectors, waste heat capture, and a geothermal heat pump together to efficiently deliver the space heating, space cooling, and service hot water required by the restaurant. This loop, while similar to those used in net-zero-energy buildings such as the Walgreen’s net-zero-energy retail store, could be expanded in the future to include key pieces of kitchen equipment.


“The net-zero-energy study has become the North Star that will continue to guide our efforts to improve the energy efficiency of our new and existing restaurants,” says Roy Buchert, Global Energy Director for McDonald’s. McDonald’s is likely to leverage this net-zero-energy study to drive further efficiency in new and existing McDonald’s restaurants where it makes business sense. For these restaurants, it is important to leverage existing upgrade opportunities, including equipment swap-outs and interior remodels, to reduce first costs and prevent any disruptions to operations. Many efficiency upgrades include simple, non-invasive changes that could be implemented with minimal disruption.
Building upon the net-zero-energy study, McDonald’s plans to prioritize the findings over time to map alongside its business objectives, and has identified the following steps.
  • Explore recommended energy-efficiency strategies, including research and development to further improve kitchen equipment efficiency, in order to reduce overall NZE costs
  • Potentially design and build a pilot NZE restaurant in the future to act as a “learning lab” to test and validate new technologies
  • Identify one or more vendors to design, deliver, and maintain large solar installations on standard McDonald’s sites, while securing incentives and financing as necessary
  • Engage with the restaurant industry and suppliers as appropriate to help drive future improvements
RMI believes McDonald’s can leverage this study to change the way that we think about energy. Developing the first net-zero-energy quick-service restaurant and driving deeper savings within existing restaurants can spur radical changes and transform the quick-service restaurant industry’s approach to energy. As the largest U.S. and global presence in this industry by revenue, McDonald’s has the power to drive equipment improvements, influence other key players in the industry, and deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in energy savings across the industry each year.
Image courtesy of Bikeworldtravel /

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