The FedEx Express arm of FedEx Corp. today broke ground on its largest solar panel project to date, which will be mounted on the rooftops of its three distribution facilities at Newark Liberty International Airport.
"Unlike big-box retailers, where you typically see solar arrays, this is a working airport with cargo and people coming through it 24 hours a day — so an array like this is really helping to power commerce," said Mitch Jackson, vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability for FedEx. "It's much more than lighting a facility. It's about moving boxes."
With nonstop business movement at the airport and the distribution facility, Jackson said the project required several years of collaborative planning with the buildings' landlord, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the project's financers, Marina Energy LLC and Solops LLC; and the solar array installer, Ray Angelini Inc. But Jackson said he "couldn't have worked with a better team" to navigate front-end challenges — such as gaining approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration — and after overcoming them all, he said, "just a couple months of installation is the icing on the cake."
Set to be complete in February, the solar installation project will put 120 people to work covering 3.5 acres of rooftops with nearly 9,000 solar modules. The system will generate approximately 2.4 million kilowatt hours to provide more than 15 percent of the FedEx Express hub's energy needs.
Jackson said FedEx Express signed a 17-year agreement to purchase the generated power from Marina Energy and Solops, which he said is similar to the way the building currently procures energy, except at a lower cost.
In a statement, Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority, said the project complements the agency's efforts to implement more than 50 sustainability projects at the airport, and though "FedEx will be the first company with solar panels on a building at Newark Liberty … we look forward to other tenants following their lead."
Jackson said the solar array coincides with FedEx's own initiative to achieve a 30 percent emissions reduction by 2020, which has led the company to "continually look at warehouse facilities that have the roof space, and that we know we'll be in for more than 10 years, as potential sites for solar projects."
Jackson said FedEx Corp. currently hosts eight solar arrays on the rooftops of distribution centers around the world, including a 2.4-megawatt system that was mounted on its Woodbridge facility in 2009. The Newark Liberty distribution facility will host the company's second-biggest solar array, but the largest for FedEx Express.