Image credit: MTC Logistics
When I wrote about Robert Llewellyn's solar car charging in rainy England, commenters noted that solar at home is unlikely to benefit most car drivers, as they will typically charge overnight. Situations will obviously vary from household to household, but it was still an important point—not all solar is created equal. Some applications will deliver significantly more benefit than others, most notably with how well they can synchronize demand with supply. One refrigeration warehouse in Maryland looks like a prime example of how to get it right—using the power of the sun to keep things cool when both demand and supply are at their peak.Huge Solar Installation One of Biggest in State
MTC Logistics, which describes itself as "the oldest and largest temperature controlled logistics company in the state of Maryland", has just launched a 736.9 kW solar installation on the roof of its refrigeration warehouse in the Port of Baltimore. Designed by solar services provider HelioSage, the project is, they claim, one of the largest installations in the state, and will provide 20% of energy to the facility.
Peak Demand Coincides with Peak Supply
The energy produced by the array is made all the more valuable because, being a refrigeration warehouse, peak demand tends to coincide with the time when solar energy is producing the most power. (Although one eagle-eyed TreeHugger colleague noted that solar panels lose efficiency with heat - so presumably there is some trade off.)
Visibility of Solar Matters
Another important, and often overlooked, advantage of the project is its visibility. Much like the urban wind turbines springing up next to one of England's busiest highways, this installation will be seen by thousands of commuters each day—as Blair Kendall of installers Southern Energy Management explains [disclosure: I have previously worked with Southern Energy and consider them friends]:
"Every day thousands of people drive past this array along Interstate 95 and get to see a solar installation that serves as a symbol of the progress being made in the state, thanks to companies like MTC and their commitment to clean energy."
How Can We Best Match Solar Supply and Energy Demand?
The idea of matching energy use with energy supply is an important one if solar and other renewables, which often suffer from intermittent or unpredictable supply, are going to reach their full potential. Part of the puzzle must be to make extra effort to incentivize solar where it is most useful—most notably in regions with high cooling needs, or on applications, like this one, that will make the most use of the energy. It should also be possible to locate solar arrays for car charging at hubs for commuters.
Moving closer to smart grid technology will also allow better demand management, moving non-time dependent energy demand to times when production is at its highest, and spreading out demand more evenly. As one commenter noted in my piece on solar car charging in England, on a basic human level solar also encourages us to use energy differently—often acting as an incentive to conserve, and motivating users to "do everything the opposite of how you do it on the grid. You do all your washing etc during the day and try and keep use of electricity to a minimum during the night."
Here's (product-placement heavy) promotional video that shows a little more detail on the installation process: