PepsiCo, TVP Solar build thermo-solar plant in Brazil providing hot water at 60-75°C

PepsiCo, one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world, implemented an innovative project in its Sete Lagoas snacks operation in Brazil: a solar thermal plant that captures sunlight and converts it into thermal energy for heating process water. Through this technology, it was possible to reduce natural gas consumption by 140,000 m³ in the unit – which will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 280 tons. This number is equivalent to the planting of almost 18,000 trees.

The thermo-solar plant is made up of high-vacuum solar thermal flat panels, running automatically, without supervision and without the need for cleaning. The first results show that the plant generated about 3.9 kWh per m² per day of thermal energy during the summer months, providing hot water at 60-75°C, even in the dry climate of Sete Lagoas. The energy targets were hit. The water heated by the system is used in several factory processes.

“To give an example, we use the water heated by the thermo solar system to cook the corn in our snacks. The difference is that the water is already heated to the process, so we have to use less flame time to reach the temperature we use at this stage of production”, describes Bruno Guerreiro, Sustainability Manager at PepsiCo Brazil.

With the new solar thermal plant, PepsiCo moves towards its global goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and Net-zero by 2040. “It is an important innovation to use thermal energy from the solar plant in the country. With this initiative, we became more sustainable, a premise that is at the heart of the way we do business at the company, continually seeking to evolve towards a Positive Value Chain”, explained Guerreiro. According to him, the solution is scalable and should be implemented in other PepsiCo Brazil plants in the coming years, with even larger areas of solar panels.

The solar thermal plant at the Sete Lagoas site is the result of a partnership between PepsiCo and TVP Solar, a Swiss company specialising in solar thermal technology with state-of-the-art solutions. TVP Solar designs, develops, manufactures and markets high vacuum, mirrorless solar thermal collectors based on patented technology. Solar thermal energy is carbon-free and a cheaper alternative than that generated by liquid fuels.

Piero Abbate, CEO of TVP Solar, highlights that the partnership with PepsiCo is emblematic for the company, because it highlights the importance of solar thermal energy for the food and beverage industry. “We hope this will be the beginning of a long-term collaboration with PepsiCo,” says Piero.

In 2021, PepsiCo announced the launch of the PepsiCo Positive platform, which puts sustainability at the heart of how the company creates growth and value, operating within the limits of the planet and inspiring positive change for the environment and people. As a result, sustainability starts to guide the way PepsiCo operates its business: from sourcing ingredients, manufacturing and selling its products in a more sustainable way, to inspiring people to make choices that are better for themselves and the planet. “Our solar thermal plant is another step on our journey towards sustainability. We are constantly evolving in our processes and innovating on several fronts to do our part to contain climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout our value chain”, said the CEO of PepsiCo Brasil Alimentos, Alex Carretero.