Historic flour mill in Oakland goes green

June 6, 2013 5:07:46 PM PDT
The concept of making flour out of wheat hasn't changed for thousands of years. But the process is becoming more environmentally friendly.

The outside of the ConAgra Mills flour mill hasn't changed much since it began grinding wheat into flour 48 years ago.

"In one hour we can make 600 bags, which is almost an entire truckload in one hour," said Jesse Higgins, ConAgra's head miller.

But inside, the mill is using less power. ConAgra just spent $21 million on energy efficient technology. From its recyclable bags and LED lighting to computerized panels that control each separate mill.

"We're able to shut down all of the plant or smaller portions of the plant just to save that small amount of energy," Higgins said.

It can also divert portions of energy back to the grid on hot days when it's in high demand from other businesses. Like Oakland's thriving baking industry which buys the flour. 90 percent of it is sold within 400 miles of the mill.

"And also they put the wheat flour in Twizzlers," said Azariah Tubby with Allendale Elementary School.

That's right, licorice sticks. These students are also realizing it's in their pizza dough.

So now, in order to go from wheat to food, the mill is using 10 percent less energy, and it's actually producing more flour.

"They're a hall of fame institution in Oakland," City Councilmember Noel Gallo said. "And we don't have too many of those left."

The city says this ConAgra Mill is a model for Oakland's energy and climate plan. It's reducing waste and pollution while keeping money in the local economy.


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