Jay Leduc and Kevin Maloney explain how a 150-year-old energy company advanced sustainability efforts and reduced utility costs by applying thin, flexible solar panels to Sprague’s existing petroleum tanks – and share how other tank owners can do the same.
The energy industry is evolving quickly, and the desire to improve sustainability is greater than ever. Sprague Operating Resources and Picktricity teamed up recently to help tank storage owners more easily increase sustainability while also saving money.
HOW IT STARTED
Picktricity, a Massachusetts-based installer of thin-film solar panels, originally approached Sprague to apply the adhesive solar panels to one of Sprague's tanks in 2017. The thin-film panels, unique in that they can be directly applied to flat surfaces, are significantly more flexible and lighter in weight than traditional panels, which also require the additional weight of metal racking or concrete ballasts for installation.
Sprague, a well-known pioneer in the energy industry, agreed to a pilot programme and quickly saw positive results.
'We put the panels on a typical storage tank to see if we could use our existing assets to generate energy savings while enhancing our sustainability efforts,' says Jay Leduc, managing director of sustainability at Sprague. 'With the pilot project generating annual savings, we are excited to roll this out on many more of our tanks and take advantage of greater savings and possible revenue generation.'
Founded in 1870, Sprague, a subsidiary of Sprague Resource, has a long history of evolving to meet customers’ changing energy needs. Sprague was the first to bring ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel to the Northeast in 2000, and the first BQ9000 biodiesel certified marketer in the US.
With more than 20 refined products and materials handling locations in the Northeast, Picktricity knew Sprague would be a great partner to help promote the thin-film solar panels.
‘Sprague’s proven ability to anticipate and stay ahead of market changes aligns exactly with our vision,’ saya Kevin Maloney, founder and chief executive officer at Picktricity. ‘They have the deep industry knowledge and relationships, and we have the solar installation expertise with best-in-class thin-film solar technology. We’re excited to collaborate to bring great opportunities for sustainability and electricity cost savings to the energy industry and beyond.’
Picktricity is an industry expert for thin-film solar installations and has strong relationships with flexible panel manufacturers around the world. On solar tank projects, working with Picktricity offers unique procurement and cost advantages to storage tank owners, which is particularly important in the current market environment.
WHY STORAGE TANK OWNERS ARE PAYING ATTENTION
While many options for improving sustainability come with high costs and significant changes to processes, flexible solar panels can work with existing tank infrastructure with minimal investment and offer multiple benefits.
First and foremost, the addition of the flexible solar panels to tanks can help lower operating costs. The solar panels can be used to generate electricity for the terminal itself, largely reducing what is typically a major line item on any terminal budget. In some markets, they can even be set up to generate revenue by selling electricity back to the grid.
Additionally, the flexible solar panels benefit tank owners by helping them achieve the sustainability goals set by internal or external parties often without a major capital investment or interruption in operations. Stakeholders have
an increasing interest in learning more about how energy companies are improving their sustainability. Terminal operators, in turn, want to meet stakeholder expectations and give back to the communities where they live and work. Embracing solar energy can help strengthen those relationships while moving the company forward.
MOVING AHEAD WITH SOLAR TANKS
After realising the benefits at its own terminal, and recognising the opportunity to help expand sustainability efforts across the industry, Sprague began partnership talks with Picktricity to expand the use of the technology not only on its own storage tanks, but also to offer the solution to other terminal operators throughout the US.
’Sprague is pleased to develop a partnership focused on renewable energy,’ says David Glendon, president and chief executive officer at Sprague. ‘The flexible solar panels are an excellent way for us to expand our sustainability efforts while leveraging our existing infrastructure.’
The best way to maximise the opportunity is to apply the thin-film flexible panels on multiple tanks.
‘We see tanks as blank canvases for sustainability and operational efficiency,’ Leduc adds. ‘We’re excited to see multiple solar tank installations happening together at various locations to maximise the opportunity for cost savings and greater sustainability.’
With deep industry knowledge and experience installing the strips on a variety of flat surfaces, Sprague and Picktricity are well positioned to help terminal owners choose locations where the flexible thin-film product will have the most impact.
‘Many of the options available allow terminal owners to receive power savings and environmental benefits without the requirement of significant capital investment,’ says Glendon.
’Throughout our history, we’ve enjoyed success adapting our products and services to the evolving energy needs of our customers. Sustainable energy solutions, whether they are adding biofuels or renewable diesel, supporting wind installations, or providing turnkey solar solutions, simply make sense.’
Picktricity offers a full suite of solar solutions, including connecting customers to project financing options, which can minimise or eliminate the capital cost of the installation.
Leduc and Maloney will be speaking more about using solar technology to maximise assets and improve sustainability at the ILTA conference on June 3-4 in Houston, Texas. For more information visit www.ilta.org/AOCTS.
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