McDonald’s Study Explores Idea of a Net Zero Energy Quick Service Restaurant

A recently released study looks at the technical and financial feasibility of achieving new net zero energy restaurants in three cities including Chicago, Illinois, Orlando, Florida, and Washington, D.C. The study, commissioned by McDonald’s Corporation, was conducted by Rocky Mountain Institute, Fisher Nickel, Inc. and New Buildings Institute.“Our Global Energy Leadership Board sees net zero energy as an opportunity for McDonald’s as we work to advance the energy performance of the restaurants and proactively pursue opportunities for integrating emerging technologies,” said Roy Buchert, Global Energy Director at McDonald’s. “We are working with the study team and our suppliers to improve the efficiency of the restaurants. This net zero energy concept could change our approach from incremental improvements to substantial advances in energy efficiency and renewable energy integration where it makes sense.

Mr. Buchert presented February 3 during the 2015 Getting to Zero National Forum session Scaling Solutions – Making it Happen through Projects and will share his perspectives on using prototypes to bring zero energy buildings to scale in retail markets.

Similarly, Walgreens, another major retailer is investigating net zero energy with a prototype store that opened fall 2013 in Evanston, Illinois. Jamie Meyers shared details on the store at the 2013 Getting to Zero National Forum event.

“The [McDonald’s] study demonstrates that for high energy intensity building types, such as restaurants, every single piece of energy-using equipment must be examined as part of a system. There’s plentiful opportunity to optimize and reduce energy use without compromising the consistency and quality of the end products,” said Stephen Doig of Rocky Mountain Institute, which led the study. To get to net zero energy, we reviewed the real-time energy use of equipment and developed system synergies to dramatically improve energy efficiency in kitchen equipment and HVAC systems.”

The study found that at all three locations, net zero energy is possible on a stand-alone traditional McDonald’s site, without any reductions to the menu or service. Specifically:

  • Reaching net zero begins with up to a 60 percent improvement in energy efficiency versus already-efficient U.S. prototype restaurant design from 2013.
  • Remaining energy needs could be met on the existing site area, with a 300 kW photovoltaic system primarily installed over the building and parking spaces.
  • Energy efficiency combined with sufficient solar photovoltaics could significantly reduce energy costs to about only 5 to 15 percent of a U.S. restaurant’s current average energy cost.
  • The additional capital cost to achieve a net zero energy restaurant in the U.S. was mainly associated with the integration of on-site photovoltaic systems.

McDonald’s plans to prioritize the findings over time to map alongside their business objectives, and have identified the next steps. Read the press announcement.

*Net zero energy projects are energy-efficient buildings (including the site) that consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite with renewable resources.