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UNFI’s Solar Investments Expected To Reduce Operational Costs


Providence, Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods Inc. has completed its largest solar array investment to date at its distribution center in Howell, New Jersey.

The 3.2-megawatt roof mounted solar array is the company’s eighth solar installation and is three times larger than any previous installation. UNFI also plans to complete LED energy lighting upgrades at 33 distribution centers that, once complete, are estimated to save the company about $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 EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

“Energy efficiency is an important focus area for our ‘Better for All Environmental, Social and Governance’ strategy and we are excited to see the Howell solar array come online,” said Sandy Douglas, UNFI CEO.

“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 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 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 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 percent by 2030,” said Alisha Real, VP of ESG and social impact.

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