InterChange Group has signed an agreement with Secure Futures Solar of Staunton to install and operate solar panels on its new cold storage warehouse in Mt. Crawford, located just south of Harrisonburg. The facility’s solar array will generate a total capacity of 1.3 megawatts of power, more than any solar power system installed at a cold storage facility in Virginia. Along with 1.6 megawatts of solar panels that Secure Futures installed on four buildings for InterChange in 2019, the company will now boast a total of nearly 3 megawatts of solar generating capacity.
The solar panels to be installed at the InterChange cold storage warehouse will offset 70 percent of the electricity used by the facility’s operations while generating enough clean energy to run the equivalent of about 160 average homes and avoid more than 1400 tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year. The system is projected to be completed by the fall of 2020.
Solar energy is a key feature of the new cold storage facility, which is being constructed in phases using state-of-the-art technology to serve growing demand from food and beverage producers in the Shenandoah Valley. Multiple rooms will offer spaces with temperatures ranging from -10 degrees Fahrenheit up to 34 degrees. The first part of the project, a building with 220,000 square feet, was opened in September of 2019, and will host the solar installation.
“We are pleased to continue our investment in sustainable energy and partnership with Secure Futures” Devon Anders, President of InterChange Group, Inc. “Our 2019 investment has proven that we can produce clean energy for our faciltiies and reduce our carbon footprint. With the amount of energy needed to store frozen food day in and day out, we are confident in deploying enhanced solar and metering technology to further minimize our effect on the environment.”
Using 3,421 monocrystalline solar panels from top-tier manufacturer Heilene, the solar energy system is expected to deliver electric power at a lower cost than the facility’s local utility, Dominion, yielding a 15% internal rate of return on investment over the 35-year lifespan of the solar panels. During that time, Secure Futures will operate and maintain the solar power system to maximize energy production.
“InterChange is leading the logistics and supply chain management industry in its use of clean energy both within Virginia and nationwide,” said Anthony Smith, CEO and Founder of Secure Futures. “Generating solar power on site offers key advantages to InterChange over other cold storage providers. They’ll save money on their operations while helping the major consumer brands who use the facility to meet their own commitments to go green.”
During the Covid-19 crisis, cold storage warehouses have proven to be a key link in the national food system. After years of food sellers stocking minimal product inventory in warehouses under the “just in time” approach to supply chain management, in March a spike in consumer demand cleared out weeks of inventory at grocery stores in just a few days. To keep shelves stocked in the future, over the last few months food retailers and distributors have been competing against each other to secure warehouse space.
Even after the coronavirus pandemic recedes, the industry will continue to require more warehouse space as a cushion against weather emergencies and other disruptions.
“Organizations must have redundancy in the supply chain,” Abe Eshkenazi, head of the Association for Supply Chain Management, recently told Food Logistics Magazine. “Redundancy means keeping excess capacity or backup over the entire supply chain to maintain regular functions in case an incident disrupts business.”
In response to longer term demand for warehouse space in the food and beverage industry, InterChange had already opened the first part of its cold storage facility before Covid hit. However, recent stresses on the supply chain have added urgency to expanding the facility, which can grow to 600,000 square feet and more than 80,000 pallet positions. To increase the building’s resilience, the solar power system will be designed to add battery storage in the future to provide backup power in case grid electricity is interrupted, as the economics make it more feasible.