green and sustainable business

Shining industrial rooftops

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Prologis2Warehouses and distribution facilities may be emptier inside than usual these days, but the rooftop space above is a great and largely untapped solar energy resource.

Distribution facility developer ProLogis, which was hard-hit last year by the collapse of the real estate industry, is on the cutting edge of what could and should be a bright business and  sustanability opportunity in the logistics and warehousing arena.

The Denver company has formed a Global Renewable Energy Group that will oversee the procurement, development  and management of new eco-friendly properties while providing management services for renewable energy projects, including a major push to provide rooftop space for solar energy installations.

One of the group’s first management efforts was announced recently: A new, 4.8-megawatt (MW) solar project that will be installed on eight rooftops at the ProLogis Park Sant Boi in Barcelona and ProLogis Park Alcala in Madrid, Spain. It’s a co-development arrangement with San Francisco’s Recurrent Energy that also marks Recurrent’s first foray into Europe.

Recurrent Energy was awarded a feed-in tariff by the Spanish Government for the projects, which are expected to enter commercial operation in mid-2010.

“This is the first of many more to come for Recurrent Energy in Europe as well as an industry first that points the way towards the future of solar power,” says Arno Harris, Recurrent’s CEO.

ProLogis has some experience with this. It completed its first solar installation in France in 2005, and now has solar installations on 20 buildings covering 7.2 million square feet of roof space.

When the project in Spain is completed ProLogis will have more than 11 MW of solar installations on its rooftops, which translates into enough energy to power more than 1,100 homes a year, the company said.

Under the arrangement Recurrent will lease rooftops from ProLogis as solar project sites. Recurrent will finance, own and operate the solar power systems on the eight ProLogis rooftops in Barcelona and Madrid. The systems will be grid-connected, feeding all the power generated back into the local utility through the feed-in tariff. ProLogis will provide construction management services; development begins this month.

“We expect to grow our portfolio significantly through the ongoing efforts of our Global Renewable Energy Group,” says Jack Rizzo, chief sustainability officer for ProLogis.

ProLogis is a natural for rooftop solar installations. It has more than 450 million square feet of roof space worldwide, and these distribution centers and warehouses are large, flat, unobstructed and ready to be permitted, says Drew Torbin, director of global renewable energy for the company. “Even with this new installation, we are only utilizing less than two percent of this available roof space, leaving a lot of room for us to grow this new business.”

Torbin adds that the company’s industrial rooftops “create a unique host-site opportunity for utilities as well as private groups like Recurrent that invest in clean energy. With this space, we are able to solve one of the most basic issues involved in developing large-scale solar projects – the question of appropriate host sites – while also providing the construction management experience to get solar installations on the fast-track to completion.”

The installation will be ProLogis’ third solar project in Spain; the company also has solar installations in Tarragona and Zaragoza. Worldwide, ProLogis has projects located in the United States, Japan, France, Germany and Spain.

If you’re in the business of leasing space, why not use all of it, inside and out?

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Written by William DiBenedetto

7 October, 2009 at 11:52 am

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