M&M’S® and MARS Going Green? New Solar Garden at Headquarters in New Jersey

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Candy giant MARS, parent company of M&M’S®, DOVE®, MILKY WAY®, SNICKERS®, 3 MUSKETEERS®, and TWIX®, turned on a huge new solar array (a “solar garden”) at its headquarters in New Jersey today. No matter what you think of candy food like this, it is good to see such a company going solar. Popular with millions, billions perhaps, and about as mainstream as you can imagine, this is a good step for solar’s more widespread use across the country.

This facility is PSEG Solar Source‘s first large-scale solar project. It is one of the largest solar projects in the state of New Jersey, which is already 2nd only to California in its amount of installed solar capacity. The MARS headquarters adjacent to the solar garden is the workplace of about 1,200 employees and is where M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies are manufactured.

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About the Solar Garden

The solar garden contains over 28,000 solar panels, providing about 2 MW of power (about 20% of the headquarter’s electricity needs) on approximately 18 acres — enough power for about 1,800 homes if it were used for that purpose.

The expected emissions reductions are equal to removing about 190 cars from the road (more than 1,000 metric tons of emissions).

The system is not owned by MARS. Actually, PSEG Solar Source owns it, but MARS has contracted to purchase all of its energy output.

Juwi solar Inc. (JSI) performed the engineering work for the project and First Solar provided the thin-film panels.

PSEG Solar Source Gets Started, More to Come

Diana Drysdale, Development Director for PSEG Global, says this is just one of many projects to come countrywide for PSEG Solar Source. “We’re excited to partner with Mars Snackfood US as we build our first large-scale solar development,” she says. “PSEG Solar Source is seeking to develop and own solar plants throughout the United States, and focuses on utility scale projects. This solar garden is an example of how PSEG is working with strategic partners to battle climate change, control energy costs and fuel economic growth.”

PSEG has two other projects in the works in Florida and Ohio that are anticipated to generate 27 MW of energy from solar sources. These are expected to be done by the end of next year and are still just the beginning of PSEG’s planned projects across the country.

MARS Interested in Environmental Matters

MARS gives environmental concern and basic economic interest as the main reasons for the new solar project. Nick Hastilow, vice president of commercial at Mars Snackfood US, says: “This project will greatly benefit the environment and our business and we expect it will also reduce energy costs. As an active member of the Hackettstown community for 51 years, we are excited to bring new innovation and alternative energy to the region and share our corporate commitment to be an environmentally-friendly citizen.”

Todd Lachman, president of Mars Chocolate North America, with greater emphasis on the pressing environmental concerns in the world today, says: “Sustainability is one of the most pressing concerns of our time. At Mars, we are aware of the scale of the challenge, and we are determined to be part of the solution.”

Not to make MARS’ concern for the environment less important, or ignore that such an action is a real environmental benefit, but this seems to be another sign that everyone has an environmental gene in them these days. MARS, creating little sugar-packed candies that we don’t need, packaged in environmentally harmful plastic wrappers, is interested enough in environmental matters (or the future economic benefits of environmentally responsible power sources, at least) to switch over to solar energy for much of its power needs. It is beyond that as well, however. The MARS headquarters underwent several green friendly renovations recently and MARS is looking to apply for a LEED Gold Certification. Hopefully, we will see more of this in the future from MARS and other large corporations.

Other environmentally friendly achievements MARS touts include:

In addition to the solar garden, Mars Snackfood US’ Hackettstown plant has also developed environmental and energy savings initiatives including reducing waste sent to landfills, recycling of packaging and raw material byproducts and a lighting retrofit project to further reduce electricity consumption. Mars Snackfood US has also been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its methane gas project at its Waco, Texas manufacturing plant. The plant receives methane gas directly from the City landfill to power the plant’s boiler system. The methane gas will provide approximately 60 percent of the Waco plant’s total boiler fuel requirements for the next 25 years. The project has also received the Keep Waco Beautiful Partners in Pride 2009 Sustainability Award and the Texas Environmental Excellence Award.

There is much more that can be done by this global candy food giant. However, every little step everyone (global corporations included) make, is something worth praising, I think. As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. And with efforts to achieve LEED Gold at its headquarters in New Jersey, the company is taking much more than one step.

New Jersey’s Commitment to Environmentally Responsible Energy Sources

New Jersey has a strong commitment to environmental matters and renewable energy sources compared to most other states these days. It has a goal (stated in its Energy Master Plan) to have 20% of its energy coming from renewable energy sources by 2020. In the last few years, it has installed over 100 MW of solar energy and is now only second to California in installed solar energy capacity.

This project is a good fit for New Jersey. Hopefully there will be more to come in the future.

Related Story: McDonald’s Going Green?

Image Credits: Gillonde via flickrsamgrover via flickrsilkegb via flickr (all under Creative Commons licenses)

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Zachary Shahan

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