Instead of using the grid as its main source of power, executives at Florida’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products are thinking of cooling their entire beer storehouse with 5,000 solar panels.
It is obvious why these company executives are building this huge project. The monstrous power bill that their 246,000 square foot beer warehouse continuously racks up is difficult for the company coffers to maintain.
Great Bay Distributors is now installing a solar grid as part of their warehouse roof that houses around 9.5 million cases of craft and mass-market beers. When completed, the solar grid will become the biggest private solar power system in the state of Florida.
This massive solar grid will cost the company around $2.5 million and Ron Petrini, CEO of the company said that it never crossed his mind that this project would earn the distinction of being the largest in the state of Florida.
Benefits of the 1.5 Megawatt Solar Grid
However huge the total cost of the solar grid the company hopes to reduce their power bills by about 40%. The chance to cut their electricity bills this much was actually the biggest reason why the project was started in the first place.
“When we started looking at what we were going to be putting up and how rather large it’s going to be and the fact that it’s really sitting out in the middle of the field with no trees, no shade, just sunshine when it’s sunny, it was kind of a natural decision to say, ‘Well, let’s look at solar,’” said Petrini.
This solar grid project was initiated by the company without encouragement from the Florida government. The old-guard utility companies have discouraged the government from giving incentives to private companies wanting to go solar in their operations.
However, the sheer benefit of being able to be independent of the grid, and to realize dramatic savings in power bills are enough incentives for this company to push for the completion of their solar grid project.
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The installation of the 5,000 solar panels is projected to be finished in about a year. Upon completion, Great Bay Distributors will have a 1.5 megawatt solar power system cooling their entire beer warehouse.
If everything goes well, the company expects to have a return on their investment on the solar grid in about six years. By that time, their energy savings will have offset the first cost of their solar power system.
In a related development, there is another piece of technology that can be adapted to cold storage and warehouse operations. The latest thin-film solar power technology really comes in handy in the area of keeping beer cold.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are developing the Active Building Envelope technology which is a new science that shrinks solar panels to micrometre-thin sizes.
This technology enables the solar cells to be stuck on walls, roofs, and beer bottles. It is less fancy technology, but is more practical for it has the potential of replacing climate-control systems such as air-conditioning by just placing thin solar strips on all the windows in a building.