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Regional independent Wegmans Food Markets’ fuel cell project launched yesterday as a fleet of 50 hydrogen fuel cell-powered pallet trucks were mobilized in the produce facility at its Retail Service Center (RSC) in Pottsville, Pa.
The Rochester, N.Y.-based grocer hopes to convert its entire lift truck fleet at the Pottsville facility from lead-acid batteries to hydrogen fuel cells over the next few years.
“Our folks tested the equipment early last year, and could immediately see what it would mean to equipment performance and productivity,” said Dave Allar, Wegmans’ RSC maintenance manager. “Whether a gas tank is full or down to a quarter tank, a car will travel at 60 mph. Not so when battery power is used; performance diminishes as the battery discharges.”
In March, nine hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts will be added to the fleet. Wegmans purchased the 50 Crown pallet trucks and nine Crown standup forklifts from Lift, Inc. of Lancaster, Pa. Lift will also supply Wegmans with Plug Power’s GenDrive fuel cell solution to power its fleet. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. of Allentown, Pa., installed the on-site hydrogen infrastructure and will supply the hydrogen fuel.
The project was, in part, made possible by a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA). The funds were used to offset a portion of the cost of installing an on-site hydrogen infrastructure, which includes an outdoor hydrogen storage tank and indoor fueling dispensers.
By converting the lift equipment in just the produce area of its facility to hydrogen fuel cells, carbon emissions will be reduced by an amount equivalent to removing 134 cars off the road each year, according to Wegmans.
“We appreciate the investment that PEDA made in this project,” said Mike Cullen, Wegmans VP of distribution planning. “It enabled us to do something that will improve job satisfaction for our employees, benefit the environment, and is right for our business.”
In addition to its Retail Service Center, Wegmans now operates 13 stores in Pennsylvania, with plans for two more in the future. One of the future stores will open in Malvern, Pa., later this year. Wegmans has approximately 7,000 employees in the state of Pennsylvania.
Wegmans operates 75 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland.