Powering our Warehouse with Solar Energy
The Food Bank owns a warehouse in Concord (31,000 sq.ft.) with a large area for refrigeration and freezer storage (2,800 sq. ft). As you know, running the warehouse and refrigeration areas consumes a lot of electricity and is the primary reason why our electrical bill used to top $4,000 every month. But, we are proud to say we are using solar energy to power our warehouse operations—being more sustainable, saving money, and using the savings in our mission to serve the hungry in Contra Costa and Solano counties.
Making it happen
In 2004, as part of on-going cost management initiatives, FBCCS conducted a study that determined solar energy could generate enough electricity to significantly reduce our monthly bill. With this in mind, FBCCS chose Cooperative Community Energy Corp. (in a competitive bidding process) to manage the $450,000 solar project. Project funding came from a variety of sources. The cities of Concord, Walnut Creek, Pittsburg and Contra Costa County provided Community Development Block Grants. Other funding was contributed by the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation and Conco Companies. A California Energy Commission rebate under the funded the remainder of system costs.
Solar System Description
Our Solar Energy system was developed in 2 Phases. Phase 1 included installation of 360 Kyocera solar panels spanning the Food Bank’s roof, tilt-mounted on a Sunlink racking system (provided by Eastwood Energy of Larkspur). The system produces 56-kilowatts of electricity during peak production periods. The energy collected by the solar panels is converted into electricity for use by the Food Bank or sent to the Pacific Gas & Electric power grid.
TeamSolar, Inc. installed Phase 1 system, working closely with equipment suppliers, the City of Concord Building Department, and PG&E to test and commission the system. Cooperative Community Energy, a California solar equipment buyers’ cooperative, provided the solar equipment and managed the overall project. CCEnergy anticipated the system will generate about 100,000 kilo-watt-hours per year, offsetting about $25,000 in electricity costs annually. The system was designed so that additional capacity can be added as additional funding becomes available.
Rooftop Solar Project Now Complete
The second phase of the rooftop solar panel project for the Food Bank has been completed and continues with exceptionally bright results. Phase 2 added 216 panels to the existing 360 panels. Through the generosity of local foundations and governmental agencies, the Food Bank now has a state of the art installation that is both saving us money and helping us to protect the environment. The project was completed in June 2008. Our energy bill for July and the following months continues to be very low. The result: The solar panels across the entire roof of our warehouse is now producing enough electricity to cover the great majority of our warehouse energy needs, and the money saved by the project is being efficiently utilized by our food and nutrition programs.
Current System Performance and savings:
The system is even outperforming our original estimates. In 2004-2005, prior to the Phase I installation, our PG&E monthly bill ranged from $2,581 to $4,311. After the Phase I installation the monthly billing was in the $1,100 to $2,230 range. Since the Phase II completion our first complete monthly billing was for the month of July 2008 it was an astounding $143.04. Although July normally generates our highest monthly PG&E bill, it is also a very sunny and productive month for solar users and gives us a larger savings then the winter months. In short, our Concord warehouse/office energy bills for 2005 totaled $43,500. Calendar Year 2008 PG&E payments were $13,604.59 (Phase II completed 06/15/2008).
We are very thankful for the investment that all of the supporters of the project have made and hope that you are as happy and as proud of the results as we are. It has proved to be a win/win situation for the Food Bank, our clients and the environment.