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New England Grocers Install Largest Rooftop Solar Array in New Hampshire

April 18, 2022 by Dan McCue

PEMBROKE, N.H. — The Associated Grocers of New England, the largest retailer-owned, wholesale grocery distribution center in New England, has set a new standard in its commitment to sustainable business practices by covering a large piece of the roof of its massive facility with an array of solar panels.

According to the company, the installation on the roof of its 500,000 square foot distribution center is the largest rooftop solar farm in the state of New Hampshire.

The 1 MW SolarEdge DC-optimized array is forecast to offset approximately 20% of the building’s annual energy consumption, contributing to a return on investment of less than nine years.

Representatives of ReVison Energy, the local employee-owned and operated company that installed the solar farm said it will reduce the distribution center’s carbon emissions by about 1,100 tons per year. 

Associated Grocers of New England serves more than 650 independent retail stores across New England and upstate New York.

Prior to his retirement, former board member Tom Bradbury initiated a companywide sustainability strategy to help guide the company to a greener future. 

The result was the formation of the Associated Grocers Green Awareness Committee, which was tasked with looking for ways to reduce the company’s impact on the environment, while also helping to increase its profitability.

After completing a number of smaller projects, AGGA identified an opportunity to achieve a large-scale energy reduction by installing a solar array on the roof of its distribution center. 

The facility is the hub of AGNE’s operations and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to the usual processes involved in the day-to-day running of a commercial building, the site requires a large amount of energy to power its extensive bank of refrigerators and freezers, contributing to its high energy consumption. 

“Once we started looking at solar, we quickly saw it was a no-brainer,” said Tommy Coyle, the spokesman for the organization.

“We spoke to six installers but found ReVision Energy to be the most straightforward company to deal with. Added to that, the SolarEdge system it proposed offered the fastest ROI. That was an important factor in getting the AGNE board to sign off on the project,” he said.

The large roof surface on the distribution center meant it would have been possible to install a much larger photovoltaic system, up to 2.5 MW, which would have enabled AGNE to offset even more of its energy consumption. 

However, this was not possible due to New Hampshire’s 1 MW net metering cap on solar installations. As a result, finding a way to extract maximum energy from the permitted array was critical. 

“We use SolarEdge mostly for rooftop systems due to its reliability and the fact its Power Optimizer technology enables us to maximize energy generation,” said Bobby O’Brien, project manager of ReVison Energy, in a written statement.

“The AGNE facility has an open roof surface with no tree shade, but there are some mechanical units on the roof that will cast a shadow over parts of the array at certain times of the day,” O’Brien continued. “With a traditional string inverter system, even if just one or two modules are shaded, the performance of the entire string is drastically reduced. SolarEdge’s Power Optimizer solution mitigates this problem, which enables us to squeeze extra energy production from every project we install.

“Another advantage of the DC-optimized system is its module-level monitoring capability,” added O’Brien. “There are 3,400 modules on the roof of the AGNE building. The SolarEdge monitoring platform and automated alert system enables us to identify and respond to any technical or performance issues very quickly. That ensures our truck rolls to site are fewer, more efficient, and that hopefully we can solve issues on a ‘know-before-you-go’ basis.” 

AGNE hopes to expand its use of solar in the near future. In the meantime, Coyle said he hopes others take notice of this recently completed project.

“Our mission statement focuses on serving the community and our efforts to combat climate change [are] a big part of that,” he said. “We hope that the success of this project will encourage other businesses to adopt solar to power their operations. Hopefully we can blaze a trail in that regard.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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