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Mars moves into large-scale wind

UNITED STATES: Food company Mars has spelled out its plans to become 100% carbon neutral following its 201MW power purchase agreement with a Texas wind project.

Mars' Hackettstown, New Jersey, facility is among the sites covered
Mars' Hackettstown, New Jersey, facility is among the sites covered

Mars has struck a deal to purchase all of the renewable energy certificates for the Mesquite Creek project in Texas, which is being developed by Japan's Sumitomo Corporation, for its 20-year lifetime.

The project will supply enough energy to the grid to power all 70 sites run by the company in the US, including 37 factories.

The manufacturer of M&Ms and Uncle Ben's rice has been working with the developers for more than a year and said its commitment to buy the power was key to the developers' final investment decision.

"We wouldn't just buy renewable energy certificates on the market. Mars had key involvement in making this project happen. We feel confident that we've made a difference here," Mars' global sustainability director Kevin Rabinovitch told Windpower Monthly.

"Wind in the US, and particularly in Texas, has tremendous economics. With cost parity to the fossil fuel alternative it makes sense, not just environmentally."

The company held discussions with a number of developers to assess the merits of their pre-development projects before settling on Mesquite.

"We chose this project because of the strength of the developer, the economics of the project, interconnection to the grid and the specifics of the site. In Texas we felt like we could do more good as there is a shortage of generation on the grid; it's a market that needs it," said Rabinovitch.

He believes that this is actually more effective than building onsite projects or arranging power purchase agreements local to facilities.

"We have a number of onsite renewable projects at our facilities around the world, but we don't build factories where it's good for renewable energy. Doing offsite projects allows us to aggregate our green power supply," said Rabinovitch.

This agreement means that Mars has already hit its goal of sourcing 25% of its worldwide energy use from renewables by 2015. The company is now looking towards its more ambitious target of being 100% carbon neutral globally by 2040.

"We will take a couple of weeks to celebrate this, but will not be stopping with this project. We will be looking at setting up projects in other countries where we have large footprints," said Rabinovitch.

While Mars says it is "technology agnostic", Rabinovitch said that it is "inevitable" that wind will feature in the mix.

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