SunChips Gathers Energy From its Namesake

SunChips Gathers Energy From its Namesake

A Frito-Lay plant in Modesto, Calif., will begin making SunChips with the help of heat gathered from the sun.

The facility plans to turn on half of a field of solar concentrators on Earth Day, April 22. When the second half of the project is complete in July, the 58,000 square feet of solar concentrators will be spread over four acres and have an annual capacity of 14.7 trillion BTUs.

The solar concentrators are different from solar panels in that they're curved mirrors that focus heat from the sun onto water-filled tubes, heating the liquid up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The water will end up in the plant's boiler system and generate steam used to cook wheat and heat cooking oil. The water will then flow back out to the solar concentrators to repeat the process.

The Modesto facility is one of eight plants that produce SunChips. The solar concentrator field is expected to eventually provide all of the energy needed to run the SunChips manufacturing line, which uses 2.4 million BTUs an hour, about 14.6 trillion BTUs a year.

Aside from directly receiving renewable energy, Frito-Lay supports renewable projects elsewhere. The company purchases enough renewable energy credits to match 100 percent of the electricity used in all of its U.S. facilities, including SunChips plants.