PFG unveils ‘sustainable’ distribution center model

April 29, 2024
Foodservice company partners with Advanced Energy Machines, Volvo Trucks, FreeWire, and GridMarket to outfit its Gilroy, California, facility with direct-emissions-free transportation and refrigeration technologies.

In recognition of Earth Day 2024, Performance Food Group (PFG), Advanced Energy Machines (AEM), FreeWire Technologies, GridMarket, and Volvo Trucks North America, recently partnered to hold a special open house event at PFG’s Gilroy, California, facility to show how the companies are collaborating to create a sustainable distribution center model for the future.

With partners’ help, PFG implemented the use of direct-emissions-free transportation and refrigeration technologies and incorporated solar power generation at the Gilroy location, the company reported.

“PFG is proud to partner with companies that are at the forefront of building a sustainable architecture for our facilities,” Jeff Williamson, PFG senior vice president of operations, said in a news release. “What we’ve achieved at our Gilroy facility is a testament to how strong collaboration by all parties can have significant, positive results that benefit the environment and lead the way when it comes to distribution center sustainability.”

Zero-emission truck and trailer refrigeration units

To help grow its zero-emission fleet, PFG deployed seven zero-tailpipe emission Class 8 Volvo VNR Electric trucks with support from TEC Equipment in Oakland, a Volvo Trucks certified electric vehicle dealership.

TEC will provide service and support to the fleet’s Volvo VNR Electric trucks in use for deliveries in the northern region of the state, the partners said. PFG also worked with TEC to evaluate funding opportunities to offset the costs for the battery-electric trucks and required infrastructure. Vouchers from California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) were used to purchase the electric trucks. Launched in 2009 by the California Air Resources Board as part of California Climate Investments, the HVIP program accelerates the commercialization of battery-electric trucks by providing first-come, first-serve incentives to make advanced technology vehicles more affordable.

“Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to highlight PFG’s smart solution that many food delivery businesses can model to help achieve their sustainability goals. We’re excited to partner with PFG to see those same advantages expand to California’s northern communities,” said Peter Voorhoeve, Volvo Trucks North America president. “We’ve seen great success with customers pairing our zero-tailpipe emission Volvo VNR Electric model with electric TRUs [transport refrigeration units] to reduce noise and emissions while also enhancing the transport experience for drivers and the neighboring communities at delivery destinations.”

In addition to adding electric trucks to its fleet, PFG’s sustainability plan calls for the food distributor to move away from diesel-powered TRUs. To help achieve that goal, PFG partnered with AEM to replace its diesel-powered TRUs with 30-plus AEM zero-emission SolarTechTRUs. Each of the electric TRU installations completed within PFG’s fleet of refrigerated trailers helped PFG eliminate approximately 20 tons of CO2 per TRU, per year, the companies maintained.

“Eliminating fine particle black carbon from energy sources has been a daunting challenge for the cold chain transportation industry. We applaud the leading-edge efforts PFG has devoted to their exemplary Gilroy site, as well as their other sites being worked on,” AEM CEO Robert Koelsch stated. “We’re honored to be a part of their carbon-reduction solution. Their leadership will surely blaze the path for others to follow.”

Considering the size of PFG’s fleet and the conversions, as of Q1 2024, PFG says it has reduced CO2 output by 500 tons over the past three years (CORE report). AEM’s proprietary solar-electric power system runs on low voltage DC, so PFG also created a “uniquely energy-efficient and safe workplace.”

Zero-emission vehicle charging infrastructure

The successful deployment of zero-emission trucks and TRUs only works when a charging solution is in place to handle the increasing need for electric power. To help prepare the Gilroy facility to handle its growing fleet of electric vehicles, PFG turned to FreeWire to implement a charging solution that meets the facility’s needs.

FreeWire installed 15 Boost Chargers at PFG’s Gilroy site that are capable of simultaneously charging 30 Class 8 tractors, the company said. These chargers deliver an ultra-fast charge using an internal battery to increase the speed of the charge without the direct use of grid power. FreeWire’s energy requirements are nearly 10 times lower than traditional chargers, reducing peak energy demand and grid strain.

“We applaud the work that Performance Food Group is doing to prioritize sustainable transportation,” said Rob Anderson, FreeWire director of fleet sales. “By using FreeWire’s battery-integrated charging technology, PFG was able to add 3MW of power needed for ultrafast charging to their existing facility, leapfrogging the local utility company’s three-year timeline. This allows PFG to optimally operate their growing fleet of 100% electric Class 8 trucks today instead of three years from now.”

Solar power and battery storage

Along with its commitment to grow its fleet of zero-emission vehicles, PFG also is focused on installing the infrastructure needed to power the more than 189,000 sq.-ft. facility through alternative and sustainable means. PFG Gilroy’s rooftop solar and battery storage project was initiated through GridMarket’s platform, using data and AI to automate the preliminary technology and financial feasibility assessments.

Built in 2019, PFG’s Gilroy facility employs more than 200 and serves the California market from Sacramento to Big Sur and San Franciso to Fresno.

“In the California market, transportation and distribution companies have two choices—do the bare minimum to meet requirements or really embrace the opportunity to become a leader in the industry,” said Peter Schneider, GridMarket director of business development and project management. “PFG has chosen to lead, and we are so thrilled to be supporting them in their energy and electrification journey. GridMarket is proud to be part of this incredible team working with PFG. The solar and battery storage installation at Gilroy represents not only a significant value for PFG’s sustainability goals, but also helps make electrification a reality by providing the corresponding onsite energy infrastructure to balance charging demand.”

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