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United Natural Foods, Inc.(UNFI) has gone fully operational with a new hydrogen fuel cell technology project at its Sarasota, Fla., distribution center, where the Providence, R.I.-based natural and organic foods distributor is using 65 fuel cell-powered lift trucks in an effort to improve efficiency, productivity and reliability.
The conversion of UNFI’s Sarasota lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cells is expected to reduce carbon emissions by about 132 metric tons annually, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of 35 automobiles, and is expected to create annual energy savings of around 640,000 kilowatt-hours.
“We retrofitted 36 existing lift trucks to hydrogen fuel cell technology and added 29 new hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks to our fleet,” said Tom Dziki, SVP of sustainable development. “We are pioneering the use of this technology in Florida as hydrogen fuel cells not only provide greater productivity and lower operating costs, but will [also] be an important component of a clean energy future.”
A hydrogen fuel cell produces energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction that yields electricity, heat and water. As well as being non-toxic and non-poisonous, hydrogen is the lightest of all gases, and the most abundant element in the universe.
UNFI teamed up with a number of companies to successfully implement the rollout, including Plug Power Inc. of Latham, N.Y.; Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. of Allentown, Pa.; and Abel Womack, Inc. of Lawrence, Mass.
UNFI carries and distributes over 60,000 products to more than 17,000 customer locations nationwide.