Solar and linear generators cut carbon at California cold storage facility


Corporations in the United States have installed nearly 19 GW of on-site and off-site solar capacity, and more than half of that was installed in just the last three years. According to the Solar Means Business 2022 report by the Solar Energy Industries Association, on-site commercial solar has averaged a steady 3% growth over the last five years. Target, Walmart, Amazon and real estate firm, Prologis, make up the top 4 companies for solar installed on site. Lineage Logistics was named as number five, and it caught our eye because it had more on-site solar installations since 2020 than any other company on the list, with 87.2 MW installed and more on the way.

Lineage Logistics got its start as a cold storage company back in 2009, when it had just one warehouse location. Now it is the world’s largest temperature-controlled industrial real estate investment trust and logistics solutions provider. It has a global network of over 430 facilities totaling over 2 billion cubic feet of capacity, which spans 20 countries across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. With an eye on the future, the company has a plan for a net-zero carbon future by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement.

As a cold storage company, Lineage Logistics is a big consumer of energy, and the company feels a responsibility to lead by example. pv magazine USA spoke with Chris Thurston, director of energy and sustainability at Lineage Logistics who explained that rather than buying carbon offsets or buying into other projects, Lineage decided to look at where the company’s emissions were coming from: fuel for its transportation and electricity to keep its facilities cold.

Linear generators

In addition to solar, Lineage is using linear generators from Mainspring Energy. These generators use a low-temperature reaction of fuel and air to create electricity. Thurston said Lineage had chosen Mainspring linear generator technologies over batteries because the linear generators provide continuous power. The goal for these units is for them to work in conjunction with solar arrays to ensure reliability and optimal use of the sun’s energy at all times, the reducing the facility’s dependence on the grid and protecting its customers’ products in the event that the grid goes down.

“We believe that the best starting point was to generate as much clean power on site, and solar seems to be the best way to do that,” Thurston said.

He said the company had been looking at various technologies and they liked Mainspring Energy’s linear generators for several reasons. One is that it ramps up and ramps down with solar, so as to not export, which he said is a requirement by the utilities.

“Most other generators are either on or off the set the ability to ramp up and ramp down to handle those swing periods when the solar stops generating overnight”, Thurston said.

The second thing Lineage liked about it was that it is fuel agnostic and could easily be swapped out with zero emission fuels like hydrogen and ammonia. Thurston said they also liked the fact that the generators could continuously generate overnight.

“It’s currently still using natural gas, but we’ve had a lot of breakthroughs in green hydrogen and other fuels over time. We’re confident that within the next decade or so that those clean fuels will be readily available in our site. “

In the U.S. alone, Lineage has more than 108 MW of on-site solar installations across its network with its on-site solar installation producing enough energy to fulfill about 40% of the facilities energy needs. Thurston said they have had a lot of success with solar, beginning with a regional approach, tackling market by market, “and it’s accumulated into something pretty great”.

Colton solar install

Lineage’s Colton, Calif. facility is an example of the combined use of solar and linear generators. The company reports that it was the first facility of its kind to pair a linear generator with solar panels, and also the first to install two linear generators.

The Colton facility is 100% powered by 8,426 Hanwha and JA Solar 385 Watt solar modules, which were installed on PanelClaw racking on its rooftop by PowerFlex.

Looking to the future, Lineage has plans to add solar to even more of its facilities around the world. The company also plans to expand its use of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure to be used on site, as well as by its customers.

Thurston sees clean energy as great optics for the company’s customers, “They’re continuously asking us to do more from a sustainability perspective, they want clean buildings, they want to be doing more for the environment, and they want to see meaningful steps on our behalf, you know, in that direction. “

Lineage continues to push the envelope on these issues, Thurston noted. “We view ourselves as innovators in the industry to show folks that clean energy can work and is reliable.”

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