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  • Pepsi installs 2nd-largest solar power plant in Northwest

  • EUGENE — Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co.'s offices and warehouse off Interstate 5 present a fresh face to commuters zipping by.
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  • EUGENE — Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co.'s offices and warehouse off Interstate 5 present a fresh face to commuters zipping by.
    Renovations over the past few years have made the building easier on the eye, with sleek awnings and attractive landscaping. Out front a "bioswale" filters water running off the roof before it drains to the storm sewer.
    Less obvious to passers-by are the facility's efforts to be easier on the environment: from converting the plant's truck fleet to biodiesel, to the recent addition of solar panels covering more than an acre of its roof.
    It's the second-largest solar electric system in Oregon and Washington, according to Advanced Energy Systems, the Eugene-based company that installed it. The largest system also is in Eugene, atop Industrial Finishes, which supplies finishes to the automotive, recreational vehicle, aircraft and marine industries and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in April.
    Pepsi's solar system should generate about 10 million kilowatt hours of energy over its expected lifetime of 35 years, according to Advanced Energy Systems. That's enough electricity to power about 21 Lane County homes over the same 35 years, estimates the Eugene Water & Electric Board.
    Nobody keeps count of local businesses with sustainable business practices. However, Good Company, a Eugene-based company that helps corporate and government clients track and market their environmental and social performance, usually hears about the more ambitious projects, such as Pepsi's, principal Joshua Proudfoot said.
    "I think they are investing at a level that few others are," he said.
    The co-presidents of the local Pepsi franchise — Eric Forrest, 40, and Andy Moore, 39 — said they are constantly on the lookout for ways to make their business greener.
    "We continue to look for opportunities that make sense for the business, as well as the environment," Forrest said.
    He and Moore said they haven't hired a sustainability consultant to help guide their efforts. They do keep their "radar up," though, to learn about ways to save energy and in the case of the solar panels — generate electricity to sell to EWEB.
    Their radar has picked up plenty of signals in a community like Eugene, which places high value on green practices and is developing a deep well of expertise in the subject.
    "Through all your points of contact, you learn about it," Forrest said.
    "I think there's a support system for these kinds of things to take place that you don't find elsewhere," added EWEB spokesman John Mitchell.
    Forrest and Moore said they've worked with and learned from EWEB, landscape architect Brad Stangeland, and Advanced Energy Systems, which has installed most of the Northwest's major commercial solar projects.
    The local franchise owners said they've also received the support of PepsiCo, their corporate parent in Purchase, N.Y., which plans to spotlight their efforts in the company's annual report. PepsiCo made a splash last year by ranking among the largest and most prominent users of renewable energy sources, according to the EPA.
    Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Eugene is owned by the Moore and LeFevre families. The Moore family bottled and distributed Pepsi products in Bend and the LeFevres did the same in Roseburg. They partnered in 1988 and now operate jointly in those locations, as well as in Eugene, Coos Bay and Newport. The company, including its subsidiary Northwest Vending, has 360 employees — about 170 of them in Eugene.
    The company distributes Pepsi products, such as carbonated drinks, water, tea, juice and energy drinks, from Lincoln City to Brookings along the Oregon Coast, throughout Lane County, and in Deschutes, Jefferson, Cook and Harney counties near Bend.
    After the Emporium, a Eugene-based department store chain, declared bankruptcy in 2002 and went out of business, Pepsi bought its former headquarters on McVay Highway, renovated the 155,000-square-foot building, and moved in in January 2004.
    Forrest and Moore installed skylights to boost the building's natural daylight and they converted the lighting system, a move that EWEB estimates will save 200,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.
    "This is the kind of project we love to see at EWEB because it combines energy efficiency with power generation," Mitchell, the utility's spokesman said, referring to Pepsi's lighting and solar energy projects. "They're saving about as much energy as they're making."
    The local Pepsi franchise is taking advantage of both federal and state tax credits for its solar system.
    It spent $2,068,000 on the solar installation, and will receive a $620,400 solar energy credit on its 2007 federal tax return, Moore said. The company also will apply for a state tax credit worth 10 percent of the project cost each year for five years. If all goes according to plan, the system should be paid off in its fifth year, Moore said.
    Pepsi also has a 10-year contract with EWEB to sell the energy it generates for 15 cents a kilowatt hour — about three times the price Pepsi pays today for its electricity from EWEB.
    Pepsi is among a half dozen local companies that sell solar-generated power to EWEB, Mitchell said.
    "Solar is here to stay; it's a proven resource," he said. However, "I think it's going to take some time before solar becomes a mainstream resource, in the way that wind ... has become a resource," Mitchell said.
    The financial rationale wasn't as strong for Pepsi to run biodiesel instead of diesel in its Eugene-based fleet of 27 tractor-trailer delivery trucks, which travel 325,000 miles a year.
    "On average, we're spending 3 percent to 5 percent more on diesel fuel," Moore said, plus the hidden costs of a bit more maintenance on the fleet. The trucks are fueled on site at night.
    Despite the extra cost, "we think obviously it's something that makes sense for the environment and the community," he said. "We're a consumer product company, and we want people to visibly know that we're doing something (for the environment.)"
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