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United Natural Foods DC Gets Lift from Hydrogen Fuel Cells

forkliftUnited Natural Foods will adopt hydrogen fuel cell technology to power the lift truck fleet at its Sarasota, Fla., distribution center.

Once implemented, the project is expected to save about 640,000 kilowatt hours a year, said Tom Dziki, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Development.

United Natural Foods is adding 29 new hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks, while 36 existing lift trucks will be retrofitted to hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The infrastructure for the lift trucks should be installed sometime by June.

United Natural Foods is part of the Sarasota initiative to replace lead acid batteries and their associated charging equipment with hydrogen fuel cells.

With the deal, United Natural Foods aims to advance the use and development of alternative-fuel technologies, said Steve Spinner, UNFI’s President and Chief Executive Officer, in a press release.

To get the project off the ground, the company partnered with firms including Plug Power, Air Products and Chemicals and Abel Womack.

By converting its Sarasota lift truck fleet to hydrogen fuel cells, United Natural Foods expects to reduce carbon emissions about 132 metric tons a year.

The 352,000 square-foot Sarasota facility serves as a regional distribution hub for United’s Southeastern U.S. customer base.

More firms with food warehouses are going to hydrogen fuel cell equipment.

Last year, supermarket Wegman’s received a $1 million grant for, among other things, adding hydrogen fuel cell-powered material handling equipment at its Retail Service Center in Pottsville, Pa.

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