McDonald’s Invests in Clean Energy that Could Power the Equivalent of 8,000 Restaurants

    The five wind and solar projects are equivalent to planting 40 million trees.

    Fast Food | December 2020 | Ben Coley
    McDonald's exteior.
    McDonald's
    McDonald's global flagship at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort is touted as a net-zero energy building.

    McDonald’s is energizing its fight against climate change by investing in wind and solar projects across the country that have enough power to operate the equivalent of 8,000 restaurants.

    In 2020, the fast-food chain finished three new virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs)—two wind farms and one portfolio of solar projects—that will be constructed in Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Ohio. In 2019, McDonald’s signed two VPPAs, which involved a wind and solar project in Texas.

    “The COVID 19 pandemic has intensified McDonald’s focus on strengthening the resilience of our communities and the planet,” said Jenny McColloch, vice president, sustainability, in a statement. “As one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, we have a unique opportunity to strengthen climate resiliency with our network of franchisees and supplier partners.”

    The company’s share of the five renewable energy projects will total 1,130 megawatts. It will also prevent roughly 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, which is equal to planting 40 million trees or removing 500,000 cars from the road in a year. According to McDonald’s, the number of solar panels would cover the surface area of Central Park seven times over or cover 4,400 football fields.

    “The addition of these VPPA transactions demonstrates McDonald’s continued leadership in the renewable energy space, as well as their commitment to supporting local communities where they serve,” said Miranda Ballentine, CEO of Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, in a statement. “These projects will not only provide more U.S. communities greater access to clean energy, but they will also stimulate local economies through job creation. As one of the nation’s leading corporate buyers of renewable energy in 2020, McDonald’s level of investment in clean energy serves as an inspiration to the entire REBA community."

    The new deals represent a giant leap toward McDonald’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent by 2030, based off of 2015 data. The brand said the five VPPAs will cut emissions by 16 percent once they’re online, which is almost halfway toward the brand’s 15-year goal. McDonald’s has further demonstrated its commitment by co-signing a letter to Congress urging legislators to include renewable energy provisions in a future COVID relief package.

    Locally, the projects will result in 3,400 short-term positions, 135 long-term jobs, and approximately $360 million in tax revenue.

    “The impressive volume of renewable energy deals McDonald’s has committed to—despite the challenges COVID-19 has placed on many organizations—further elevates McDonald’s as a leader within the industry,” said Tim Juliani, director, Corporate Climate Engagement, World Wildlife Fund, in a statement. “In a year like 2020, with so many other crises at the fore, McDonald’s has remained strikingly steadfast in its commitment to climate action.”