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Sysco puts fuel cell units into operation

(June 23, 2010)—Food products distributor Sysco Corp has deployed 98 GenDrive fuel cell units from Plug Power Inc on a fleet of Raymond Corp electric forklifts at a new distribution centre.

The equipment includes 72 model 8400 pallet trucks and 26 model 7400 Reach-Fork trucks.

The units will move both dry and freezer goods throughout the 585,000 square foot (52,650 sqm) facility. Cold storage areas of the North Houston distribution centre can reach temperatures as low as negative 8° Fahrenheit (negative 22.2° Celsius). Unlike lead-acid batteries that do not react well under cold temperatures, fuel cells continue to meet or exceed customer requirements despite the sub-zero temperatures.

Air Products and Chemicals Inc of Allentown, Pennsylvania provided the indoor hydrogen fueling dispensers in strategic locations throughout the centre. Truck operators can refuel a GenDrive unit in less than two minutes, completely eliminating the need to change, store, charge and maintain multiple lead-acid batteries per truck.

The power solution from Plug Power allows Sysco to reduce its creation of greenhouse gas emissions at the facility. GenDrive, fueled with hydrogen, creates only water and heat as by-products.

"Sysco has been a great customer to work with throughout GenDrive’s field testing and we’re excited to see them now convert a full Raymond fleet from batteries to fuel cells," says Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power in Latham, New York.

Sysco, the global leader in the food service distribution industry, has been involved in the development and field testing of GenDrive power units since 2001. Its interest allowed Sysco to witness the financial, operational and environmental benefits that fuel cell solutions offer. Sysco operates more than 190 distribution centres across North America.

This installation is partially funded by an award made to Sysco in April 2009 by the US Department of Energy (DoE) office of energy efficiency and renewable energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The DoE intends for this funding to accelerate the commercialisation and deployment of fuel cells and create jobs in fuel cell manufacturing, installation, maintenance and support services.

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