Clif Bar sets new green energy standard with pollinator-friendly solar farm

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Clif Bar has installed an extensively pollinator-friendly solar system at its Idaho bakery facility to promote biodiversity while generating green electricity. Pic: GettyImages/laksmipathi lucky
Clif Bar has installed an extensively pollinator-friendly solar system at its Idaho bakery facility to promote biodiversity while generating green electricity. Pic: GettyImages/laksmipathi lucky

Related tags: Clif bar, Renewable energy, solar power, pollinator-friendly, Biodiversity

US energy bar giant Clif Bar & Company has upped the green power ante by installing an extensive solar pollinator ecosystem at its $90m sustainability-focused bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho.

The Clif Bar Baking Company – which features a biophilic design that incorporates natural outdoor elements in an indoor space – has powered up the region’s largest private behind-the-meter solar array.

What is biophilia?

I love my job zakokor
Pic: GettyImages/Zakokor

Studies show biophilia is a win-win for companies and workers, resulting in increased feelings of happiness and vitality, reduced stress, lower heart rates, fewer sick days and increased productivity.

Clif Bar’s Twin Falls baking facility includes more than 200 windows, vaulted skylights, light-directing solatubes, indoor walls of recycled barnwood and natural stone, indoor plants and sliding doors that connect an auditorium to an outdoor events space.

A packaging area without exterior windows offers wall-projected images of the natural outdoors that rotate daily.

Clif Bar has also planted more than 570 trees and 5,700 shrubs and grasses in its gardens.

The bakery – which was opened in 2016 – makes organic-certified Clif Bar energy bars and Clif Kid ZBars, an organic whole grain snack bar for kids. It employs over 200 people.

Clif Bar was founded in the early 1990s and is today considered the biggest player in the energy bar market. Sales are estimated to be between $500m-$1bn annually. The company also make Luna Bars.

Clif Bar is a member of RE100 – meaning it sources green power for 100% of the electricity used by its California headquarter, its satellite offices and bakeries around the US. According to founder and co-CEO Gary Erickson, this is the next step in becoming a fully sustainable food company.

“At Clif Bar, we’re working to run a different kind of company which starts with rethinking conventional models for food production,” ​said Erickson.

Promoting biodiversity

The two-megawatt solar system – spread over five acres – will generate an annual output of more than three million kilowatt hours of electricity – the equivalent of the solar power needed to run 280 homes for a year. It will supply the 300,000 square foot commercial bakery with 30% of its annual electricity.

Solar canopies over the employee parking area provide additional energy generation.

Clif Bar is also a participant in InSPIRE, a national research study led by the National Renewable Energy Lab on the economic and environmental benefits of including native plants and pollinator habitat with renewable energy projects.

The family and employee-owned maker also works closely with non-profit Fresh Energy, which campaigns for pollinator-friendly solar initiatives.

As such, indigenous drought-tolerant flowering plants have been planted under and around the panels to promote biodiversity, increase energy production, conserve water and topsoil, and support local pollinators.

 “At Clif Bar, we treat energy like an ingredient,”​ said Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s VP of environmental stewardship.

“We’ve made a commitment to using ingredients that are good for people and the planet – and that includes the energy we use to make our food. We took that idea one step further by integrating a solar-pollinator ecosystem that supports biodiversity and healthy farming systems."

The company has set up an outdoor walking trail to educate visitors about the benefits of renewable energy and the importance of pollinators to the food system.

Setting a new standard

“Pollinator-friendly solar projects like Clif Bar’s are critically important to inform best practices for renewable energy and our food system,”​ added Rob Davis, director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy.

“The future of our food supply worldwide is dependent on the work of pollinators, and they need our help.

“Clif Bar’s strategic decision to encourage solar with habitat sets a new standard for sustainable energy design, operations, and management. We need more companies, universities, and communities to follow Clif Bar’s lead.”  

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