The McDonald's restaurants in LaPorte County soon may be known for their green technology as much as their Golden Arches.
The six restaurants, owned by Glenn Lubeznik, have teamed with 4 Thought Energy LLC, of Deerfield, Ill., to install clean energy technology in their operations.
"It's a personal initiative as well as a corporate decision," Lubeznik said. "There are a lot of benefits to this not only from an environmental standpoint but from a financial standpoint."
First to incorporate the green energy technology was the McDonald's on Pine Lake Avenue in LaPorte. A combined heat and power system was designed specifically by 4 Thought Energy for that restaurant, and 4 Thought is calling the system the first of its kind on that scale.
Not only does the system generate electricity on site, it also heats and cools the restaurant using the energy normally lost in generating and transmitting electricity.
"We're capturing a tremendous amount of lost energy from our heating and air conditioning units, hot water heaters, grills and fryers," Lubeznik said.
Bob Borden, a principal of 4 Thought Energy, said as far as he knows the system is the first of its kind in the United States, as well as the first one for his company.
"We've investigated this combined heat and power, and the technology has been around since before World War II but it hasn't been used in a commercial site this small," Borden said.
"We are actually creating electricity on site at Glenn's store using natural gas. And with the reciprocating engine we have we're capturing all that waste heat that's generated. And we're using it for the space heating and the hot water. We also have a chiller on site so we can make it into cold air if there's a need for refrigeration or air conditioning."
Borden said the system is in essence 70 percent to 80 percent efficient compared to the utility providing the energy, which is around 33 percent.
"The other characteristic is it's hooked up simultaneously to the grid with the utility so that if our system goes down or we need repairs, it will seamlessly work through the grid just the way it always did," Borden said. "And if the grid goes down or if there's a power outage we can supply some of the back-up power for Glenn's essential functions for the store."
Lubeznik said the big picture is saving the environment and being more efficient. "I think that's equally, and more so, important than the financial benefit," he said.
Lubeznik said he hopes the technology ends up in all McDonald's restaurants.
"I've also committed with forethought to help promote this within McDonald's because as a corporate goal McDonald's wants to save and do as much with the environment as possible," he said.
"We're very excited about the future with this."