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New storage facility to keep cool by harnessing sun's heat
by Monica Unhold | March 20, 2009 | The Daily Transcript
Maintaining an indoor temperature of minus 10 degrees Fahrenheith typically comes with a sky-high utility bill, but Innovative Cold Storage Enterprises (ICE II) plans to cut costs with its new Otay Mesa facility by meeting 72 percent of its energy needs with solar panels and wind turbines.

The 131,946 building incorporates a 1.1-megawatt photovoltaic solar power system on its roof and a 10-kilowatt wind generation system, both designed by SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWRA).

In addition to utilizing renewable energies, ICE II took every opportunity to make the building as sustainable as possible, said Paul Stapleton, vice president of the U.S. Green Building Council San Diego Chapter at a dedication ceremony March 19.

"ICE II is one of the most efficient refrigeration facilities in the country," Stapleton said.

The new storage facility offers four times the storage capacity of the previous building, and is expected to have just half the monthly utility bill.

Through such efforts to reduce energy consumption, the facility achieved a rating of LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Representatives of San Diego Gas and Electric were also on hand to present ICE II with a check for $229,733 in incentives for the solar panel installation.

The building's more than 5,000 square feet of office space is riddled with green building materials and technologies.

Solar tubes eliminate the need for lighting during the day in many areas, by allowing the sunlight to filter through the building.

Other green building materials used include low water bathroom fixtures, bamboo cabinetry and tiles made of recycled glass.

Thick insulation coupled with the building's steel framing reduce heat transfer, said John Belcher, project manager for Hamann Construction.

The warehouse interior is also maximized for efficiency, with motion detector controlled LED lighting and narrow aisle racking to minimize wasted space.

Rechargeable forklifts will be used within to eliminate fuel consumption, Belcher said.

Rather than ozone-depleting refrigerants, the building will utilize a highly efficient ammonia refrigerant, said Tom Dosch, project engineer for C&L Refrigeration, which designed the system.

Although Dosch has designed many commercial refrigeration systems in the past, he has never designed one of this size that interfaces with photovoltaic solar panels, he said.

ICE II's facility is the equivalent of 30,000 home refrigerators.

"This may be the largest facility in the U.S. to tie refrigeration to solar panels,"Dosch said.

C&L plans to submit a paper on the project to the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration, so others can learn from the groundbreaking project, Dosch said.

In addition to maximizing efficiency within the building, ICE II will minimize its impact on the land it sits upon.

Sections of sidewalks trailing around the seven acre property are poured of pervious concrete, a material which allows water to trickle through to the soil below.

Hamann Construction also mixed its own sandy loam soil on the site, where rainwater runoff trickles through into bioswales.

The water is then collected and used in the refrigeration system's evaporators.

Hamann Construction, the project general contractor, is an El Cajon-based firm that specializes in tilt-up construction.

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