Briefs: Funding for solar cooling pioneers

Faced with climbing fossil fuel prices, refrigerated warehouse companies around the globe are starting to look seriously at renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy. In the United States, companies such as ShopRite Supermarket, Costco store, The Kettle Foods warehouse, The Whole Foods distribution centre, the Frito Lay production facility and distribution centre are among many that feature rooftop solar power arrays. Wal-Mart already has around 2 dozen solar systems in California alone. New-Jersey based Halls Warehouse Corporation for instance, a 600000 m3 cold storage company, uses a USD 9-million solar system, which was subsidized up to USD 4.6 million, including a 30% federal tax credit. The system is paired up with a second, even larger, solar system run under a power purchasing agreement (PPA) with enXco, a subsidiary of French corporation EDF Energies Nouvelles, which assumed all the risks and responsibilities for the funding, operating and maintaining of the system, while allowing Halls to purchase all of the solar generated power at a reasonable fixed price with no up-front capital investment. Halls has reduced its annual electricity consumption by approximately 21% and claims that with nearly 8000 Halls-owned photovoltaic panels capable of generating 1.4 MW of power and some 22000 enXco-owned panels, the combined systems annually avoid 2250 tons of CO2 emissions. It may take 7 years for complete payback of the system, but the company enjoys a greatly improved public image. The efficiency and affordability of solar panels is improving and it is likely that their cost will have fallen from USD 4 to well under USD 2 per watt over the next ten years, according to S. Chu, the US Secretary of Energy. Cold Facts, May-June 2010