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Somersworth food distributor turns solar power into refrigeration system

Union Leader Correspondent

November 04. 2012 8:10PM
Favorite Foods in Somersworth now operates the state's largest solar energy system, which helps power the food distribution company's massive refrigerator and freezers. The project was financed by Revolution Energy, which is a fellow member of the Portsmouth-based Green Alliance. 

SOMERSWORTH - After installing 572 solar panels last month, a commercial food distributor is using the sun to keep things fresh and crisp while saving on its electric bills.

Favorite Foods, headquartered at 29 Interstate Drive, is using a 140-kilowatt system, which is the largest in the state, to power its industrial cooler and freezer, which use the same amount of power as 24 homes, according Julie Cole, vice president of marketing.

"That's enough panels to power a neighborhood," Cole said, adding the panels will produce about 170,000 kilowatt-hours annually, representing about 17 to 18 percent on the electric bills.

While this doesn't offset the cost to keep the freezers running, Cole said the savings can be re-invested into the company, which could help encourage growth or job production.

Cole said the company distributes a variety of products and services to local restaurants within a 60-mile radius around Portsmouth, which encompasses parts of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Representatives from Favorite Foods and system financer Revolution Energy plan to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony, scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m. along Interstate Drive.

Both companies are members of Green Alliance, a business network that is also based in Portsmouth and serves the Seacoast area.

"We're always looking for ways to be more green, and this is a huge step forward in that direction," according to a release by President Chris Barstow, who co-founded the company in 1978.

Through a special inverter installed on site, Favorite Foods can constantly monitor the system in real time, according to the release.

"This way we won't be guessing about how it's performing, because we'll know almost exactly," Barstow said in the release.

"It's going to have a positive effect on our energy consumption, and we're looking forward to that being something we can really hang our hat on," Barstow said.

Revolution Energy, which is based in Portsmouth, specializes in financing mechanisms that allow clients to pay for the system over time, according to the release. The undertaking, which was partially funded by the State's Renewable Energy Fund, proves "the solar industry is alive, well, and only growing in the Granite State," according to Andrew Kellar, project coordinator for Revolution.

"Favorite Foods has been a leader in renewable energy and efficiency upgrades to their building and fleet, and we think they'll serve as an incredible example of what's possible," Kellar said in the release.

Kellar continued that this is "just the kind of high-profile project that could go a long way in proving the efficacy of alternative energy in the Granite State.

"This is a huge step for us, but working with Revolution has made a very complicated and difficult process very manageable," Barstow said.

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