Frito Lay unveils "near net zero" facility in Casa Grande

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CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - Frito-Lay, the company known best for its potato chips and Doritos, now hopes to be recognized as a leader in the world of sustainable energy.

On Wednesday corporate officials unveiled what they said is the world's first "near net zero" facility in Casa Grande, just south of the Valley. The plant  produces most of its own energy and eliminates very little waste.

Among the ways officials hope to turn the plant carbon-neutral: solar panels. They've installed 18,000 photovoltaic panels to harness the suns rays.

Al Halvorson, the Director of Environmental Sustainability for Frito-Lay, said the panels produce enough energy to power 860 homes for a year.

The company has also built a biomass boiler to produce steam, and has installed a special water recycling system.

"We've taken all that technology we've installed and landed it here in one location," said Halvorson. "We feel that this is one of the most efficient, if not the most efficient, manufacturing plant in the state, in the country and even in the world."

The plant currently employs 350 people, a number Halvorson could rise depending on future expansion plans.

Bob Jackson, the mayor of Casa Grande, says he hopes hiring will continue as the plant continues its expansion.

"I think the committment they've made in putting all the green technology into this plant really signifies that they're planning to be here for a long time in the future," said Bob Jackson, the mayor of Casa Grande.

Jackson said Casa Grande's unemployment rate is currently above the national average, somewhere between ten and 11 percent.