Top Ten Cleantech Highlights of Alcoa

Alcoa, which actually stands for Aluminum Company of America, is the third largest aluminum producer in the world. Aside from its involvement in the aluminum industry, Alcoa has worked in a number of other major industries, including automotive, aerospace, building and construction, packaging, and commercial transportation. While its base of operation is in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Alcoa has operations located in over 31 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Spain, and Norway. Currently, Alcoa looks to meet the challenges of environmentalism and sustainability in all countries where they do business. The company looks to deliver new solutions and ideas that can assist in building a sustainable, healthy future for the planet and everyone living on it.

1 ) Ten Million Trees Initiative. The Ten Million Trees Initiative is a mission created by Alcoa to plant ten million trees around the world. This mission is open to all Alcoa contractors, suppliers and families. Alcoa realizes that ten million trees absorbs over 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The goal is to have all these trees planted by the year 2020. In this program, all participants are encouraged to plant trees along Alcoa property to contribute to the achievement of sustainability and environmental enhancement.

2 ) Recycling Programs. Alcoa has created their own recycling program to do their part as a major aluminum manufacturer. Alcoa collects aluminum scraps to be recycling at its facilities in Yennora, Australia and Alcoa, Tennessee. The goal of Alcoa Recycling is “To help people understand how important it is to recycle, and to make it easier to do so.” One program is the Recycling Bin Program. Since 2008, Alcoa has donated numerous recycling bins to communities across the United States to recycle aluminum cans. Alco currently has over 100,000 recycling bins.

3 ) Founding Member of the Sustainability Consortium. Alcoa is one of the founding members of The Sustainability Consortium. This consortium is an independent group made up of a number of global organizations that are looking to increase sustainability throughout all life cycle stages of all the manufactured products. Alcoa contributes life cycle analysis data and aluminum knowledge and expertise.

4 ) Alcoa Partners with National Renewable Energy Lab. In 2010, Alcoa entered into a partnership with National Renewable Energy Lab to test a new and advanced solar technology. The goal of this partnership is to create Concentrating Solar Power technology and make it competitive in the United States by decreasing the overall cost to generate electricity. Rather than glass mirrors, this solution uses extremely reflective aluminum mirrors, which are more environmentally friendly and much more durable. This design solution, “enables high-volume manufacturing techniques to lower installation costs, plus its monolithic structure enables a simple ‘drop-in-place’ collector for easy installation.”  A benefit of this technology is that the thermal energy may be stored and then drawn upon during short periods of clouds as well as at night, offering much better grid sustainability as well as increased capacity factors as compare to normal photovoltaic applications.

5 ) Renewable Energy Initiatives. Alcoa has remained a powerful supporter of renewable energy projects. For example, Portland Aluminum made an agreement with Pacific Hydro in 2000, an Australian renewable energy company. In this agreement, it involves, “a connection through Portland Aluminium’s electricity switchyard which enables Pacific Hydro to channel energy from its Portland Wind Farm back into Victoria’s electricity grid.  Alcoa continues to work closely with the Pacific Hydro team to ensure our existing infrastructure is utilised in this project.”

6 ) Alcoa and the Cheoah Hydro Plant Modernization Project. In August of 2010, Alcoa started a $110 million modernization project along the Cheoah dam and hydropower plant in North Carolina. This project was started with a multimillion dollar grant from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was issued by the United State’s Department of Energy’s Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program. “Hydropower is clean, renewable, reliable and efficient,” said Rick Bowen, Alcoa Energy president. “These attributes equal sustainability – sustainable energy and sustainable jobs. That’s why we are looking forward to replacing the four 90-year-old Francis turbines with four new high-efficiency turbines, generators and transformers which will provide an additional 22 megawatts of generating capacity at APGI’s Tapoco Cheoah plant.”

7 ) Alcoa Gets Cradle-to-Cradle Certification. In September 2010, Alcoa’s primary aluminum received Cradle-to-Cradle certification in large part due to all the work Alcoa has placed into increased renewable energy, recycling, and waste reduction. Primary aluminum is  made from raw materials was given silver C2C certification and is an important recognition of Alcoa’s commitment to recyclability and sustainability.

8 ) Alcoa Teams with Department of Energy to Reduce Energy Consumption. Alcoa began a working relationship with the Department of Energy in 1999 to look for opportunities to reduce energy consumption in all its aluminum processing facilities. Alcoa has used energy software tools as well as technical resources furnished by the DOE to perform energy assessments and conduct employee training. This has allowed them, over the years to identify over $60 million in energy saving opportunities and has allowed Alcoa to also reduce all operating cost by more than $15 million. For example, The Bauxite Plant in Arkansas conducted an energy assessment and located annual savings of over $1 million. The majority of all the savings were located within the compressed air system. To get the necessary results, the Alcoa plant improved the compressed air system which decreased air demand and improved the electrical load management.

9 ) Alcoa and China Partner up for Clean Energy Projects. In January of 2011, Alcoa partnered with China Power Investment Corp. to work together on $7.5 billion of smelting and clean energy projects that will aid China in reducing both pollution and rising energy costs. These companies together look to develop a number of solar and wind energy projects as well as aluminum smelting plants in China. This is to assist China in reaching its 2020 goal of having 15 percent of its energy come from non fossil fuel sources.

10 ) Alcoa Uses Renewable Energy in Quebec Aluminum Smelters. In December of 2008, Alcoa announced a series of new agreements with the Canadian province of Quebec until the year 2040. These agreements offer the supply of renewable, clean energy to all three of Alcoa’s aluminum smelters in the province – Deschambault, Becancour, and Baie Comeau.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at

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