Whole Foods proves everything really is bigger in Texas

Austin’s well-known and well-loved chain of natural foods stores is like most things in Texas: it’s big. Whole Foods Market has long been nationally recognized as a leading organic grocery store, but the company’s new flagship store in Austin makes sustainability its biggest priority.

Whole Foods began installing solar power in 2002 with its Berkeley, California location. Over the past 12 years, both PV technology and Whole Foods have come a long way. Not to be outdone by its California counterparts, the new Austin store is home to a 186kW rooftop system.

Sunny Tripowers mounted on the building's existing metal screen.

Sunny Tripowers mounted on the building’s existing metal screen.

Solar you can see

A large portion of the building’s rooftop was originally considered unusable for solar because of a metal screen surrounding the HVAC units. The system designer and installer, Freedom Solar Power, turned this challenge into an opportunity by replacing the metal screen with modules, making part of the system visible from the parking lot and adjacent highway so customers can see exactly where the store’s power comes from.

The screen’s steel frame doubled as a mounting location for the nine Sunny Tripower inverters and connection units used for the system. The system’s size called for the use of one Sunny Tripower 15000TL-US and 24000TL-US, and seven 20000TL-US inverters. The remainder of the 690 Suniva modules were mounted to the roof using DynoRaxx’s Evolution fiberglass mounting system.

Energy reduction

Whole Foods had established a 25 percent-per-square-foot energy reduction goal for their stores. Freedom Solar Power’s use of decentralized inverters and creative system design allowed for optimal use of the available roof space. The system has not only achieved that goal, it met Whole Foods’ requirement a year ahead of the 2015 power reduction deadline.

To make sure the system keeps running smoothly, Freedom Solar Power installed an SMA Cluster Controller for full system monitoring through SMA’s Sunny Portal and any needed troubleshooting or system alerts.

Though Whole Foods continues to grow and open new stores throughout the U.S., they’re committed to doing so with the lowest possible impact. Installing solar on new and, when possible, existing stores keeps the company’s operating costs and environmental impacts to a minimum and profits at a maximum.

A full review of the installation was covered in the June/July 2014 issue of SolarPro magazine with a detailed overview and complete system details. Check it out and let us know what you think!

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