Food and Beverage Distribution Center Invests in Solar
October 26, 2021
Austin-based Freedom Solar has built a reputation for managing complex solar and backup power projects. It boasts with decades of residential and commercial solar panel installations including off-grid solar power, ground-mount solar energy systems, solar car-ports and more. The company continues to reinforce its commanding position as a leading turnkey solar energy installer in Texas. Ben E. Keith Company recently installed a major solar system at their Austin distribution centers.
“We are extremely pleased to have this new relationship with Ben E. Keith Company, a revered name in Texas business for 115 years,” Freedom Solar CEO Bret Biggart says. “This is the second major Austin-area beverage distributor we have helped move to solar, demonstrating that the time for solar is now in the distribution business, which has the ideal industry profile for onsite solar power.”
Food and Beverage Companies Want a Renewable Energy Option
“Sustainability is increasingly important to businesses and customers alike, and these projects represent the first steps in our sustainability plan,” said Ben E. Keith Beverage Vice President of Operations Jon Thompson. “Solar is, without a doubt, an affordable, financially and environmentally smart investment.” Although Thompson approached Freedom Solar based on another distributor’s recommendation, he also put the jobs out for competitive bids.
Example of Food and Beverage Using Solar: Ben E. Keith’s Central Texas Distribution Centers
Freedom Solar’s installation of 2,430 solar panels on the rooftop of Ben E. Keith Beverages’ distribution center at 4101 McKinney Falls Parkway in Austin is one of the largest local commercial solar installations to date. At 96,000 square feet, Ben E. Keith Beverages’ Austin branch requires a lot of energy to keeps the lights on, the AC running, and the shelves well-stocked for their clients in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties. On average, a warehouse or distribution center may use between 17 and 274 kBTU per square foot annually.
Located in South East Austin near the 641-acre McKinney Falls State Park, the area averaged 1,767 °F annual heating degree days and 2,449 °F cooling degree days. To meet the energy demands of the area, the 96,000-square-foot beverage distribution center requires over 2,000,000 kilowatt hours of energy. With the capacity to produce 1,336,037 kilowatt hours of energy, Freedom Solar’s 2,430 solar panels will be able to offset two-thirds of the facility’s energy costs. For Ben E. Keith Beverages, the array has a projected five-year return on investment.
Food and Beverage Solar Installation at Hill Country Branch
Freedom also recently installed 1,020 solar panels on the roof of Ben E. Keith’s facility at 1604 Bessemer Avenue in Llano. Despite being a quarter of the size of the Austin distribution center, Ben E. Keith’s Hill Country Branch resides in the Llano Uplift, one of the southernmost portions of the Great Plains in Texas other than the Balcones Escarpment. Although Llano’s only a ninety-minute drive from the Austin, this geographical region experiences wider swings of annual temperatures, averaging 2,051 °F annual heating degree days and 2,411 °F cooling degree days. The 26,000-square-foot Hill Country distribution center would require over 1,400,000 kilowatt hours of energy.
With the capability to produce 557,792 kilowatt hours of energy, Freedom Solar’s 1,020 solar panels will offset 40% of the facility’s electricity costs. It was the first commercial solar project in the Llano area. The company serves all of Texas as well as the Front Range of Colorado and central Florida, providing alternative energy to thousands of residential customers and hundreds of commercial solar power clients.
Commercial Benefits to Food and Beverage Industry and Solar
An investment in commercial solar power provides a strong internal rate of return (IRR) and a more favorable payback period than most residential systems. Growing numbers of businesses in the United States are seeing the financial and environmental benefits of solar energy. Companies such as Walmart, Kohl’s and Amazon are leading the way, with growth across many corporate sectors. In Freedom Solar Power’s experience, a few of the commercial sectors that would benefit are architects, engineers and contractors, education and non-profits, government and military, healthcare, hospitality, multi-family and assisted living, office buildings and retail.
Ideal Industries for Commercial Solar Power
Businesses that own the building or property with large unobstructed area on the roof or grounds, have a roof that is in good condition, have higher electrical loads during the day and/or summer, and have a passthrough ownership structure with significant tax liability are a good fit for solar.
Since 2020, Biggart says, the federal investment tax credit has been a big factor in the decision of many customers to go solar. Congress recently extended the ITC as part of a broad congressional initiative to make renewable energy like solar more affordable. The legislation extends the 26% solar tax credit through 2022, dropping to 22% in 2023. Additional legislation is in the pipeline to further stimulate the broad adoption of clean, renewable energy.
“Solar’s time has come,” Biggart says. “Freedom Solar is proud to partner with respected, high-profile businesses like the Ben E. Keith Company in leading the 21st century solar revolution.”
Austin-headquartered Freedom Solar has locations in Texas, Colorado and Florida. -mjm