Fuel Cells Greening the Grocery

In recent months, several major supermarket chains have turned to fuel cell technology to not only power their stores, but also stock their shelves with fuel cell-powered forklifts in distribution warehouses.

In recent months, several major supermarket chains have turned to fuel cell technology to not only power their stores, but also stock their shelves with fuel cell-powered forklifts in distribution warehouses.


Fuel cells are a good fit for a large supermarket, not only because they greatly reduce emissions, but because a fuel cell's waste heat can be captured and used to heat the store in winter, as well as run air conditioning and refrigeration systems. A fuel cell can generate almost 100% of a store's hot water needs while providing reliable power. For materials handling, the benefits include shorter refueling time, longer run time and a recent study by Argonne National Laboratory estimates that fuel cell lift trucks produce 63% less greenhouse gas emissions than battery systems.

In 2008, Whole Foods Market became the first grocery store to install a fuel cell at a new store in Connecticut. The 200-kW UTC Power PureCell® fuel cell generates 50% of the store's power, 100% of the hot water, and waste heat is used in the heating and cooling system. The fuel cell also provides back up power in case of a grid outage.

According to UTC Power and Whole Food, each year, the fuel cell reduces the store's carbon footprint by 90 metric tons, NOx emissions by 2 metric tons and saves more than 4 million gallons of water.

Since that installation, Whole Foods has expanded its fuel cell portfolio to three stationary systems and more than 60 fuel cell forklifts and other supermarket chains are following suit.

Whole Foods has installed a 400-kW fuel cell system in a new store in Massachusetts and has purchased another 400-kW unit for new store in San Jose, California. The fuel cell will prevent the release of more than 370 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Price Chopper installed a fuel cell system in a new store in Colonie, New York that generates 60% of the store's power. This location earned the highest EPA level of green certification ever given to a grocery store.
Whole Foods purchased 61 Plug Power GenDrive fuel cell-powered forklifts for use in its Landover, Maryland, distribution center.
H-E-B bought 14 Nuvera Power Edge forklifts for their San Antonio Perishable Distribution Center.
Central Grocers has ordered 220 Yale forklifts, powered by PlugPower's GenDrive fuel cells, to be used in a new distribution center being built in Joliet, Illinois. Central Grocers estimates their carbon emissions will be reduced by one-third through the use of fuel cell forklifts, and that they will see a cost savings of $1.5 million dollars over the next 10 years.
Wegman's is purchasing 50 new pallet trucks and nine forklifts with the GenDrive fuel cell system in their Pottsville, Pennsylvania distribution facility.
Super Store Industries has made two purchases of methanol fuel cell-powered forklifts from Oorja Protonics for its Lathrop, California, freezer facility.

Several states offer grants or tax incentives to encourage companies to install fuel cells and other renewable energy systems and there is a Federal fuel cell tax credit that helps alleviate the initial cost.

For more information on the projects listed above, federal or state policies and tax credits, or fuel cells in general, please visit www.fuelcells.org or contact Jennifer Gangi at jennifer@fuelcells.org.

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