It started with a potato—or actually, a whole lot of potatoes. As companies rethink how their operations impact the world around them, leaders at a snack factory in Veurne, Belgium, that makes Lay’s chips had a radical idea about all the vapor that comes with cooking up to 20 tons of potatoes per hour.
“The production process of our range of chips releases a lot of heat that we don’t use,” says plant director Anke Van de Weyer at food and beverage giant PepsiCo, which owns the brand. At the same time, developer Ion was looking for more eco-friendly ways to heat the homes in its new Suikerpark residential project.
By forging a partnership with Belgian energy companies Noven and Fluvius as well as local government officials, project leaders found a way to transfer heat from the factory to the new development. PepsiCo installed a condenser to capture the hot vapors released as a byproduct of the cooking process. Noven and Fluvius worked together to build a transfer system that repurposes those vapors to heat an underground circuit that delivers hot water into a home’s radiators and subfloor hydronic heating tubes. Project leaders designed the system so hot water recirculates constantly to reduce waste. Plus, it supplies hot water to kitchen and bath faucets.
“With such a heat network, the homes and apartments no longer need to have an individual heating system,” says Ion CEO Davy Demuynck.
For PepsiCo, the project is a way to move closer to meeting two of its goals: cutting the company’s carbon emissions by more than 40 percent by 2030 and becoming net zero by 2040.
The team connected the first homes to the system this year—and by the time all 500 residences are using the system, the impact could be substantial. Project leaders believe it could eliminate an estimated 1,456 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 10 years.
But Suikerpark is just the start. Studies by Noven show the development will use only one-third of the residual heat from the plant. So project leaders at the plant—the area’s largest private employer—are already looking to expand the system to include more than 2,000 homes, the local hospital and other public buildings.
For companies looking for new solutions, the project provides some serious food for thought—and highlights the power of collaboration.
“This heat network is a perfect practical example that demonstrates how we can convert heat loss into climate-friendly energy gains when companies, the government and citizens join forces,” says Zuhal Demir, Flemish minister of energy.