UNFI to Use Fuel Cell Powered Lift Trucks at Sarasota, Fla., DC

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UNFI to Use Fuel Cell Powered Lift Trucks at Sarasota, Fla., DC

United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) plans to install hydrogen fueling technology to power 65 fuel cell-powered lift trucks at its Sarasota, Fla., distribution center.

The Providence, R.I.-based natural and organic foods distributor will use Lehigh Valley, Pa.-based Air Products’ fueling solution at the facility. The equipment for the 352,000 square-foot facility, which serves as a regional distribution hub for customers in the southeastern United States, is targeted to be up and running by the end of June 2010.

UNFI looked to this initiative to replace lead acid batteries and their associated charging equipment with hydrogen fuel cells as part of its culture of social responsibility and its commitment to using clean energy, as well as to improve efficiency, productivity and reliability. “We consider environmental stewardship an essential component in every facet of our business,” said Steven Spinner, UNFI’s president and CEO. “This hydrogen fuel cell project extends our commitment as an environmentally conscious organization.”

Air Products will supply the hydrogen as well as compression, storage and two indoor hydrogen-dispensing units. UNFI 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.
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 its Sarasota lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cells, the company expects carbon emissions will be reduced by about 132 metric tons annually, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 automobiles.

Air Products’ hydrogen-fueling technology is currently being used to fuel over 300 material-handling vehicles, including fuel cell-powered pallet trucks at Wegmans Retail Service Center in Pottsville, Pa., and fuel cell-powered lift trucks at Central Grocers’ new distribution center in Joliet, Ill.

UNFI carries and distributes more than 60,000 products to over 17,000 customer locations nationwide.