Nestlé Waters Bottles Up Big Wind In SoCal

Nestlé Waters has its critics, that’s for sure, so whether the company is trying to burnish its social and environmental reputation or really does care about doing the right thing, well, we’ll let you ponder that one. But you have to give Nestlé props for making its first big renewable energy project a good one.

We’re talking about the decision to site two 1.6-megawatt wind turbines – these are the industrial-size spinners – at its Cabazon, Calif., bottling plant. If you don’t know the town, it’s in the San Gorgonio Pass (aka, Banning Pass), a gap through the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains that connects the Inland Empire to the desert cities of the Coachella Valley. It’s a wicked windy place – home to one of the earliest and still biggest wind power developments in the country. Perfect place to make clean electricity from wind.

Cabazon Wind Turbine nestle

The blades go up on one of two Nestlé turbines in Cabazon, Calif. (image via Nestlé Waters)

“Hosting wind turbines at our bottling plants is a critical step for Nestlé Waters to support the increased use of renewable energy,” Michael Washburn, vice president of sustainability for the company, said in a statement. “This latest effort in conjunction with our partnership with Foundation Windpower is consistent with our practices to reduce our environmental footprint.”

Nestlé said it figures the two GE turbines will meet about 30 percent of the plant’s power needs, churning out around 12,900 megawatt-hours of power per year. By our back-of-the-envelope calculations, that works out to a 46 percent capacity factor, not the highest we’ve ever heard of, but certainly better than the 30-35 percent often seen.

The developer Foundation is the go-to company in California for commercial enterprises looking to power up with big wind, with 11 projects done and more in the works. Incentives at both the state and federal level allow the company to offer attractive power purchase agreements to clients. There’s the California State Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), which last time we checked pays $1.25 per watt of installed capacity, half up front and the rest over the first five years of operation, assuming a 25 percent capacity factor is achieved (no problem there). Then there’s the federal production tax credit that pays 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of wind energy produced.

While this is Nestlé’s first wind energy project anywhere in the world, the company does flash other green credentials: The Cabazon plant got a LEED Silver rating in 2004, one of 10 LEED-level facilities for the company. The company also boasts that it “produces 98 percent of its single-serve PET plastic bottles on-site at company bottling facilities, saving 6.6 million gallons of fuel per year through reduced transportation requirements.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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