United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) recently announced the completion of its largest solar array investment to date at its Howell, New Jersey distribution center. The 3.2-megawatt roof mounted solar array is the company’s eighth solar installation and is nearly three times larger than any previous UNFI installation. UNFI also plans to complete LED energy lighting upgrades at 33 distribution centers that, once complete, are estimated to save the company approximately $15 million over a 10-year period.
The rooftop array contains 7,171 solar panels and was developed to generate an amount of renewable electricity approximately equivalent to the annualized energy demand at the Howell distribution center. The system is projected to generate an estimated 3.8-million-kilowatt hours of electricity per year, preventing approximately 2,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from being released into the atmosphere annually.
The system’s environmental benefits are equivalent to the emissions of 524 U.S. homes' electricity use for one year according to the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
“Energy efficiency is an important focus area for our Better for All Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy and we are excited to see the Howell solar array come online,” said UNFI CEO Sandy Douglas. “This newest solar array, coupled with our current LED lighting projects at a majority of our distribution centers are expected to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions year-over-year and represent a milestone on our path to building a food system that is better for our people, communities, and the planet. These efforts are also expected to reduce our operational costs and help us become more efficient, and that’s a positive for our business.”
UNFI worked with PowerFlex, a national provider of intelligent solar, storage, and electric vehicle charging solutions for commercial and industrial customers, to complete the installation of the Howell solar array.
UNFI is also on track to finish retrofitting 33 of its distribution centers built before 2002 with the latest LED lighting by the end of UNFI’s current fiscal year. The lighting upgrades are not only cost- and energy-efficient, but also provide a longer lifespan and operate at lower temperatures versus conventional lighting. Upon project completion, all 56 of UNFI’s distribution centers will have LED lighting, which is anticipated to save the Company nearly 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity usage per year.
“The completion of our Howell solar array and investments in LED lighting at our distribution centers has already helped reduced our indirect Scope 2 emissions and will continue to help us as we work to reduce energy intensity in our distribution centers by 30% by 2030,” said Alisha Real, UNFI’s vice president of ESG & Social Impact.
UNFI is North America's premier grocery wholesaler delivering the widest variety of fresh, branded, and owned brand products to more than 30,000 locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, ecommerce providers, and food service customers. UNFI also provides a broad range of value-added services and segmented marketing expertise, including proprietary technology, data, market insights, and shelf management to help customers and suppliers build their businesses and brands. As the largest full-service grocery partner in North America, UNFI is committed to building a food system that is better for all and is uniquely positioned to deliver great food, more choices, and fresh thinking to customers.
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