A global leader in the premium chocolate category, Lindt & Sprüngli employs 6,300 people worldwide at eight production facilities throughout Europe and the United States. Their Lindt USA operation operates more then 100 retail stores domestically. Serving more than 490,000 homes and businesses throughout the state, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) is New Hampshire's largest electric utility. Recently, the two entities came together to test the feasibility of using cocoa bean shells as a fuel source.
We talked to Thomas Linemayr, Chief Executive Officer and President of Lindt USA, and Dick Despins, PSNH Manager of Schiller Station, about the significance of this extremely unique – and green – collaboration.
What was the inspiration for this project?
Linemayr: By the end of 2009, Lindt USA expects to begin producing its own chocolate from raw cocoa beans at its Stratham, New Hampshire facility. Cocoa bean shells are a by-product in the production of chocolate, and Lindt was looking for a local solution for disposing of this by-product.
Despins: At PSNH, we are always looking for ways to increase our use of cleaner, renewable, local energy sources. Our collaboration with Lindt allows us to replace a portion of coal with a portion of biomass.
What are the benefits of importing cocoa beans and producing chocolate domestically?
Linemayr: Currently, Lindt & Sprüngli subsidiaries in Europe process the chocolate that Lindt USA uses for products such as the iconic Lindor Truffles collection. The chocolate is shipped in the form of huge blocks, across the Atlantic to the Stratham, New Hampshire facility. When Lindt USA imports the beans directly from the source and manufactures its own chocolate, the company will eliminate the need for these overseas transports and will become one of the only U.S. chocolate manufacturers to manage the chocolate-making process from raw material to final product.
How are cocoa shells transformed into useable fuel?
Despins: The cocoa shells will be added into the fuel mix at PSNH’s Schiller Station at a ratio of one part cocoa shells to 33 parts coal. It’s a small amount, but the burning of biomass reduces the amount of fossil-based carbon dioxide the power plant would otherwise emit.
Linemayr: Since cocoa bean shells are designated by the state of New Hampshire as biomass, sending these shells to PSNH’s Schiller Station would be mutually beneficial for Lindt and PSNH, resulting in an increased use of cleaner, renewable, local energy sources.
In 2006, PSNH replaced the 50-megawatt coal-burning boiler with a wood-burning boiler of the same capacity. How has this green “upgrade” affected electric power production?
Despins: In addition to drastically reducing emissions levels from the plant, the Northern Wood Power Project, as the conversion was called, qualifies Schiller Station to produce Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that are required by various states' Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Renewable Portfolio Standards require energy suppliers to support the growth of new renewable energy sources by purchasing RECs from generators that produce fuel from wind, solar, biomass, etc. PSNH can use the RECs it produces at Schiller Station to meet its requirements under the State of New Hampshire's Renewable Portfolio Standards.
How is the creation of renewable energy good for business?
Linemayr: Sending cocoa shells to Schiller Station would be a win-win situation for Lindt. Not only would it be a quick, local solution for disposing of a by-product, but it would also afford another opportunity to reduce Lindt’s carbon footprint.
Despins: We are part of a multi-state effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel power plants to a target level that is 10 percent lower than 2002 to 2004 emissions levels by 2018. Each step we take toward replacing a fossil fuel with green power is a step in the right direction.
Could this collaboration inspire other utility operations to work with food manufacturers to replace fossil fuels with biomass?
Linemayr: To our knowledge there are currently no other cocoa-bean-shell-to-energy projects in the U.S. chocolate industry. However, if this new fuel mix proves to be feasible, hopefully other companies will follow Lindt USA’s lead in finding local solutions for disposal of by-products.
In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with companies that are taking innovative steps toward the creation of sustainable products and services. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing please contact Allison Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org.