Fuel Cell, Solar Package Arrives in California

The price of stamps may soon go up again, but the United States Postal Service (USPS) is looking at its energy costs as well when it comes to balancing their annual budget. Over the past few years the USPS has worked with Chevron Energy Solutions (CES) to install energy saving devices in some of its postal centers.

The USPS San Francisco Processing and Distribution Center is getting a hybrid solar photovoltaic (PV) and fuel cell power station to help out with their annual energy costs — and to help clean up their energy demands. Grants totaling $875,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense and the State of California are paying for most of the $15 million cost of the project. CES bought the 250 kW DFC300A stationary fuel cell from their distribution partner FuelCell Energy of Connecticut. Two PV systems, a 185 kW crystalline-silicon solar array mounted on a parking canopy and a 100 kW of flexible roof-mounted solar array on the building, will work to further cut energy consumption at the distribution facility. Improvements at both facilities should lower total annual USPS electricity purchases by $1.2 million, or 10 million kWh. “These facility upgrades are an important step in the Postal Service’s efforts to reduce its energy consumption nationwide and to use more renewable energy,” said Ray Levinson, who is the interim national environmental program manager for the USPS. “Project by project, we’re making a positive impact on our environment and our operating costs, while at the same time helping to secure America’s energy resources.” The 680,000 square-foot building, which houses the distribution center, is a regional Postal Service hub and processes 7.5 million pieces of mail and packages daily. Energy from the fuel cell power plant is expected to provide part of the base load heat and power requirements, while the PV arrays will fill in for the power needs during peaking electricity demand. This hybrid power plant installation is part of a comprehensive system upgrade project by Chevron Energy Solutions for the distribution center and the Embarcadero Postal Center. “This fuel cell installation is an integral part of our overall mandate of reducing our energy costs while at the same time making a positive impact on our environment,” said Ray Levinson, who is the interim national environmental program manager for the USPS. The market for combined heat and power applications for federal government facilities in the U.S. is estimated to be 1,590 MW, based on a September 2002 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by the Federal Energy Management Program. USPS has a long-term contract with Chevron Energy Solutions to install energy efficiency improvements at mail facilities throughout Northern California. CES recently completed improvements at the USPS processing facility in West Sacramento, and is upgrading facilities in Colfax, Marysville, Oakland, San Jose, Stockton, Vacaville, Winters and other Northern California locations. Together these improvements should save the Postal Service more than $2 million per year in energy costs. Since 1985 USPS has reduced its energy consumption nationally by more than 20 percent. A leader in using renewable energy, it has installed solar power systems at facilities in California, Colorado, Rhode Island, Texas and Puerto Rico, installed fuel cells in Alaska, and begun using geothermal technology to heat and cool facilities in Oklahoma and Maryland. Over the past year it also dedicated new “green” post offices in Ft. Worth, TX, and Corrales, NM.