SARASOTA, FL (March 17, 2010)—Complementing its culture of social responsibility and its commitment to utilizing clean energy, UNFI today announced plans to adopt hydrogen fuel cell technology to power the lift truck fleet at its Sarasota, Florida distribution center.
Intended to improve efficiency, productivity, and reliability, 65 GenDrive™ fuel cell powered lift trucks will be mobilized at the Sarasota distribution facility with a targeted completion date of June, 2010. The company will add 29 new hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks to its fleet and 36 existing lift trucks will be retrofitted to hydrogen fuel cell technology.
“We consider environmental stewardship an essential component in every facet of our business. This hydrogen fuel cell project is further proof of UNFI’s leadership as an environmentally-conscious organization by advancing the use and development of alternative-fuel technologies," commented Steve Spinner, UNFI's President and Chief Executive Officer.
As part of the Sarasota initiative to replace lead acid batteries and their associated charging equipment with hydrogen fuel cells, UNFI has partnered with a number of companies to implement the roll-out, including Plug Power Inc., (Nasdaq: PLUG), Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE: APD) and Abel Womack, Inc.
As background, a hydrogen fuel cell produces energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction that yields electricity, heat and water. Hydrogen is non-toxic, non-poisonous, the lightest of all gases, and the most abundant element in the universe. By converting UNFI’s Sarasota lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cells, the company expects carbon emissions will be reduced by approximately 132 metric tons annually, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 automobiles.
Tom Dziki, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Development, commented, “This project is a natural extension of our strategy to create an environmentally and socially responsible environment in all the communities we serve. Hydrogen fuel cells not only provide greater productivity and lower operating costs, but will be an important component of a clean energy future, and we are happy to be pioneering the use of this technology in Florida. Once implemented, this fuel cell project is expected to create annual energy savings of approximately 640,000 kilowatt hours.”
The 352,000 square-foot Sarasota facility, which employs approximately 160 associates, serves as a regional distribution hub for customers in the Southeastern United States.