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McCain's potato chip factory 'to be run on wind power'

McCain Foods is investing £10m to build three wind turbines at the UK’s largest chip factory, which should cut energy bills at the site by up to 60 per cent.

The 80m-high turbines will be installed at the company’s plant at Whittlesey, in Cambridgeshire, as part of a drive to lower the company’s carbon footprint and move its operations towards sustainability.

The turbines, which will be up and running in November, will be the highest on-shore turbines in England, and will power the entire site at certain times of the year. They will provide up to 60 per cent of the annual electrical power required to operate the plant and, when the site is not operating, unused electricity will be put into the National Grid.

McCain hopes the turbines will also help to safeguard against future energy price rises. It estimates that the turbines will lead to a reduction of 20,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide greenhouse emissions from the Whittlesey plant.

Bill Bartlett, corporate affairs director, said this is “a significant investment”. “We are particularly proud to be the first major food manufacturer to use alternative energy on this scale,” he said. “This demonstrates that a large-scale manufacturing plant can operate efficiently while significantly reducing its carbon footprint.”

McCain has introduced a number of environmental initiatives in recent years. This includes investment in a combined heat and power facility at the Whittlesey plant which will run on a renewable energy supply generated by bio-gas from an on-site waste water treatment plant. The company uses potatoes exclusively from the UK for its chips to cut down on food miles, and sources potatoes as close as possible to factories.

The latest move follows a lengthy planning application process which included consultations with the local community, English Nature, the RSPB and the local and district council. Mr Bartlett added that the development would be “a landmark manufacturing facility that offers green solutions to big business’s dependency on non-sustainable power”.

McCain is privately owned and is part of Canada’s McCain Foods Group, the world’s largest maker of fries.

By Karen Attwood

The Independent

15 August 2007