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Medical products stored with solar power

On 37,000 square meters, medical products are stored for all of Europe. Since early 2017, the entire storage and logistics facility of Medline International Germany – a distributor of medical products – has been powered by green electricity. A PV system with a power of one megawatt generates some 900,000 kWh per year. Goldbeck Solar built this solar power plant.

Solar modules on 12,000 square meters

On the roof of Medline’s central European warehouse in Kleve, completed in 2015, solar modules on around 12,000 square meters have been producing clean energy since early 2017. “It matches our concept of sustainability that now, the entire logistics, IT, lighting, and also all our forklifts and lift trucks are powered by solar energy”, explains Gerard Derksen, CFO international. The family-run business, founded in 1910, employs 140 people in Kleve, and has been certified in accordance with the sustainability standard ISO 14001. The building was awarded the DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council) certificate in gold. The logistics facility is one of fifty around the globe.

“Within eight years, we will have earned back the investment in our PV roof installation”, states Björn Lamprecht, CEO of edifier Goldbeck Solar. On average, his clients don’t pay anything for electricity anymore after six to ten years. How long this payback period will last depends on a number of factors: “We calculate it considering the output and the customer’s own consumption. Additionally, it depends on the return for the power our client doesn’t consume himself”, explains Lamprecht.

40 percent self-consumption

Medline consumes about 40 percent of its roof electricity itself, saving about 18 euro cents per kWh. The power that the trading firm doesn’t need itself is passed on to a direct marketer who trades it at the energy exchange. Although the prices realized there vary, they are usually higher than the feed-in tariff paid currently by electricity suppliers. “As for facilities under one megawatt, most operators go for the feed-in tariff version. It is lower, but you can plan your returns, which are stipulated for twenty years ahead”, explains the solar expert.

In Kleve, especially medical supplies such as medical gloves and surgical gowns and drapes are stored in 37,000 pallet spaces, waiting to be used in a hospital in Europe. From Kleve, Medline delivers these goods to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, and a number of other countries. Most products are picked up by trucks of a logistics partner from the warehouse’s 34 loading ramps. Medline also operates some Medtrans trucks that are are used to supply urgently needed goods to customers nearby. “In a few years, that may happen with electric trucks”, Derksen waxes oracular. He wants to wait until the technology for such vehicles will have matured, and will then check the options.

Reduce electricity costs

The project was initiated by E.Quadrat, an energy consulting company from Mannheim. The aim was to reduce the trading company’s electricity costs. After a feasibility study, E.Quadrat called for tenders to find a PV expert. Goldbeck Solar from Hirschberg won the contract. The PV expert covers some eighty commercial roofs each year, often trade and logistics centers. “We carried out an economic evaluation which turned out promising. Then, we assisted our customer during the administrative procedures, and we took care of the coordination with the distribution system operator. Additionally, we helped with the contract design, and will supervise the final acceptance tests”, says Wolfgang Kottnik, adviser and former professor at Mannheim’s University of Applied Sciences, who supported the project as one of E.Quadrat’s co-owners. (HCN)

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