Solar energy has arrived in the cold storage industry and several companies are taking full advantage of the opportunities
Innovative Cold Storage Enterprises (ICE) operates two cold storage facilities in San Diego, California, one of which is just a block from the USA/Mexico border. A year after opening the first location, owners Jeff and Gregg Hamann learned about the importance of energy management, as ICE was hit hard with soaring energy costs. Although the company survived the initial rate shock, it’s been a struggle to deal with increasingly high energy costs.
Fast forward ten years and the Hamann family, now ready to put up a new 7.5 million cubic foot state-of-theart building, made a decision to “go green.” Plant engineer Matt Jones says the owners were persuaded, in part, by an increasing commitment to Christian “Creation Care,” and in part because it made good sense economically.
The ICE system, like the one at Halls, has two components. Half of the 2,700 panels are owned by ICE, the other half by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). Together, they comprise a 1.1 megawatt system and meet about 72 percent of the plant’s energy needs. According to Jones, thesystem generates an average of 1,295 kWh per day during the winter months, and an average of 3,383 kWh per day in summer months. He estimates that, in just one month, emissions avoided from conventional electric production can equal nearly 1,000 tons of CO2. According to Jones, this is the equivalent of 2,001,596 miles not driven, or 198 acres of trees planted, or enough energy to power 151 homes for a year. And the SDG&Ecomponent helps the utility to meet its 30 percent emissions reduction goal by 2012.
The ICE portion of the system cost about $3.5 million to install before any subsidies. Between the30 percent federal tax credit and a five-year California refund based on kW hours produced, the total cost comes down by about 40 percent. But Jones is even happier about the impact of solar on his energy bill. The electric meter typically runs backwards for four hours every day, enabling ICE to use SDG&E as a battery, and the results are dramatic. The original ICE facility has about 80,000 square feet and ten thousand pallet positions, while the new location has about130,000 square feet and 28,000 pallet positions. The monthly power bill at the new location is only about half of what it is at the original location.
He also loves to brag about it. The solar company provided ICEwith detailed forecasts as to what could be expected in solar production. Jones proudly notes that ICE exceeded its estimates by 11 percent.