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UNFI Finishes Largest Solar Project to Date

Grocery distributor completes renewable energy installation at distribution center in Howell, N.J.
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
UNFI solar
UNFI has installed its largest rooftop solar array yet at a distribution center in New Jersey.

In time for Earth Month in April, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) has completed a 3.2-megawatt roof-mounted solar array at a distribution center in Howell, N.J. This is the company’s largest solar array, nearly three times larger than the seven previous installations at its facilities.

Developed with solar energy provider PowerFlex, the latest array contains 7,171 panels and can generate 3.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, which is about equal to the annual energy demand at the site. According to UNFI, the system will prevent approximately 2,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from being released into the atmosphere each year.

[Read more: "UNFI Continues Supply Chain Transformation With Distribution Center in Pennsylvania"]

This latest, largest solar project is part of UNFI’s broader energy-saving efforts. The company is also upgrading LED lighting at 33 of its  distribution centers by the end of its fiscal year and estimates that LED lighting is projected to save nearly 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity usage per year.

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

According to UNFI’s ESG report that was released in January, the business has made measurable strides in its overall sustainability initiatives. In 2022, UNFI launched a Climate Action Hub for its suppliers, finished a comprehensive waste audit and started deploying all-electric yard trucks to move trailers at distribution center yards in southern California, among other company-wide efforts.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 49 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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