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McDonald’s buys some renewable energy

The company is making an investment in solar and wind power as it works to reduce its carbon footprint.
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's Corp.

McDonald’s is buying power from the sun and the wind to make its burgers. Sort of.

The Chicago-based burger giant said this week that it has signed two long-term, large-scale “virtual power purchase agreements,” or VPPAs, from a pair of renewable energy providers.

The company will buy energy created by Aviator Wind West, a wind power project in Coke County, Texas, as well as a solar project in Texas.

The agreements represent investments that will add 380 megawatts to the power grid. The power won’t go directly to McDonald’s restaurants.

The company said that the energy generated by the two projects as a result of the investment will be equal to more than 2,500 restaurants’ worth of electricity.

McDonald’s is making the investment as part of its strategy to use its “scale for good,” which features efforts such as removing antibiotics from its proteins, including beef. The company has also eliminated foam, and it began working with Starbucks and other chains to reduce the environmental impact of cups.

In this instance, the company last year agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030. The two energy deals are expected to help the company make progress toward those goals.

“These U.S. wind and solar projects represent a significant step in our work to address climate change, building on years of renewable energy sourcing in many of our European markets,” Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s chief supply chain and sustainability officer, said in a statement. “We want to keep this momentum going, and we’re excited for what’s next.”

A growing number of companies have been making similar agreements, which are essentially investments in wind or solar farms that ensure a certain amount of renewable energy is added to the grid. That then offsets their own commitments to renewable energy goals. Tech companies in particular, such as Facebook and Apple, have used them. Several recently agreed to purchase energy from a wind farm in Texas.

McDonald’s investment will help generate $200 million in local tax revenue in Texas and provide 600 short-term construction and other jobs and 13 long-term jobs.

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