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Clif Bar begins work on region's largest solar power system

Source: 
Times-News

Oct. 10--TWIN FALLS -- Clif Bar intends to use the power of the sun to supply about 30 percent of its bakery's electricity needs in Twin Falls.

The company announced Tuesday that construction is underway on the region's largest on-site, "behind the meter" solar power system. About 5 acres of solar panels will take over the southwest portion of the property, including some covered parking structures and a pollinator garden to draw bees, butterflies, beetles and birds.

Once completed, the two-megawatt solar project will generate more than 3 million kilowatt-hours annually -- equivalent to powering 280 homes for a year.

"This project is a perfect example of your commitment, your dedication to the planet, your people and your aspirations," Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar said during a Tuesday ceremony. "Clif Bar was the kind of company that we knew we could learn from."

Clif Bar officials had planned a groundbreaking event, but with pouring rain outside, chose to move the ceremonies indoors. General Manager Dale Ducommun welcomed attendees while wearing a bright yellow sun costume.

Borrego Solar is the contractor for the solar array, which should be completed by June 2019.

The installation will include roughly 6,000 solar panels, said Ben Foster, president of Fosterra and the consultant Clif Bar hired for the project. Clif Bar won't be exporting any power onto the Idaho Power Co. grid, but as the bakery operates seven days a week, it should be using all the solar energy as it's generated during the daytime.

The pollinator garden will feature native plants that will be good for bees and butterflies -- especially Monarch butterflies -- Ducommun told the Times-News. Clif Bar will water the garden using a pressurized irrigation system that's in place for the meadow grass that covers the land around its bakery.

"There are other states that actually require pollinator habitat with solar panels," Ducommun said.

Clif Bar may use the solar array as an educational opportunity for College of Southern Idaho wind and solar students, he said. And the pollinator garden surrounding it will feature an observation deck for community tours.

Idaho Power Regional Manager Ryan Adelman said this is the largest "behind-the-meter" customer-owned solar system in its service area. Most of what the company sees is rooftop panels on people's homes, he said. The next largest system is 17 times smaller.

Dedication to sustainability

Clif Bar already has a claim to being 100 percent green-powered because it purchases renewable energy credits for all of its bakery's power. But this solar project will bring the generation source closer to home and is projected to reduce Clif Bar's energy costs in the long-term, project engineer Lane Daley said.

The bakery has also extended its green-power commitment to its supply chain. By 2020, Clif Bar aims to encourage 50 of its suppliers to source 50 percent or more of "green power" for the energy they use on Clif Bar's behalf. So far, 44 suppliers have reached the goal, the company said in a statement.

Clif Bar's dedication to sustainability was recently recognized in an award it received for pollution prevention from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The company has a zero-waste goal, where 90 percent or more of its waste will be diverted from the landfill or incineration.

As of September, the bakery was diverting about 95 percent of its waste -- including cardboard, plastics and food waste, Environmental Health Safety and Sustainability Manager Wade Allred said. In 2017, Clif Bar'sTwin Falls bakery sent 2,400 tons of feed to local dairies, he said.

"It's a much better use of that material than composting or sending it to the landfill," Sustainability Project Manager Carolina Leonhardt said.

Clif Bar also reduces its consumption by using LED lighting throughout the 300,000 square-foot bakery. Special burners have been installed in the ovens to use less gas, Allred said.

When the city of Twin Falls began diverting curbside recycling to the landfill earlier this year, Clif Bar stepped up to offer employees an on-site drop-off point for getting items to a recycling facility, he said.

Bakery expansion

Concurrent with the solar panel installation, Clif Bar Co. of Twin Falls has started work on an expansion of its employee locker room and uniform storage space.

"We've grown our team at Twin Falls from a little more than 200 people when the bakery opened to nearly 300 today," Human Resources Manager Susan Potucek said in a statement. "Our locker room gets crowded, we're storing production and maintenance uniforms in hallways, and space for contractors is tight. The locker room and uniform storage project will address all of that, preparing us well for future expansion and future needs."

The 4,500 square-foot project will expand the locker room, add showers and create a dedicated space for contractors and business partners to sanitize equipment and store belongings. The work will be completed by April 2019.

Clif Bar intends to donate its old lockers to a local school, and the company will recycle other materials.

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