Solar Power? Swe-e-e-e-t!

Image courtesy of M&M Solar Project

Image courtesy of M&M® Solar Project

Little known fact: Green M&Ms® are actually “green” — made by solar power!

The reason it’s little known is probably because it’s not exactly, literally, 100 percent true. But it’s almost accurate. Let me explain.

Last week, the Hackettstown, NJ, factory that produces M&Ms® went solar in a big way. Their new solar PV array has a generating capacity of 2MW, making it one of the largest such facilities in New Jersey. The 28,000 solar panel array covers 18 acres and supplies 20% of the factory’s electricity.

That’s twenty percent. Keep that figure in mind.

MM colors by percent

MM® colors by percent

And what percentage of M&Ms® are green?

Check out the pie chart on the right, produced by the independent research laboratory of Josh Madison (Waste of money, brains, and talent).

See the green slice? That’s right: Eighteen percent, which is almost exactly 20%!

(And people accuse reporters of not “getting the science right.” Sheesh.)

The solar array is owned by Public Service Enterprise Group, Solar Source and was built by juwi solar, inc, of Boulder, CO.

The solar garden (of the Garden State)

The thin-film solar panels used in the array (called a “solar garden” by the candy manufacturer) are made by First Solar, Inc, with headquarters in Tempe, AZ.

M&M Solar "garden"

M&M "solar garden" courtesy of PSEG

Sustainable building

The solar power system is part of a larger project by M&M® owner, Mars Chocolate North America. The manufacturing plant is currently undergoing a major renovation with sustainable design elements. According to the company’s Website:

With the environmentally friendly renovations completed, the company will apply for LEED Gold Certification. If granted, the Hackettstown building will be the first Mars legacy site to achieve LEED Certification. A few of the enhancements include the installation of water-conserving fixtures that reduce water usage by more than 30 percent; a reduction in energy use by 15 percent through the use of a newly upgraded Building Energy Management System, variable frequency drives and energy-efficient lighting and controls; an upgraded roof utilizing a highly reflective roofing material that offsets the direct heat gain to the building; and the utilization of more than 20 percent recycled content in materials, from carpet to ceiling tiles.

The video below shows opening day events when the array was turned on. Notice how a PSGE Solar Source spokesperson explains why New Jersey is second only to California in installed solar capacity: She credits state policies that were put in place early to encourage solar development.

You can compare New Jersey’s solar policies to those in other states at the Website, Solar Power Rocks. For even more details on state (and federal) solar policies, the best source is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

Make sure you watch the video all the way to the end. My favorite segment comes at the 1:20 mark. A man in a suit shakes hands with a giant sentient red M&M®, or as the company prefers to call these creatures, a Spokescandy. The exchange isn’t audible, but from Mr. Red’s expression, you know he’s gone rogue.

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4 thoughts on “Solar Power? Swe-e-e-e-t!

  1. This is great, Osha! Thanks for the mention. We updated NJ recently, so should be good info.

    Now if only Sam Adams or some other premium beer company would go solar. Then I could drink brews more sustainably. 🙂

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