Home furnishings giant plugs in another fuel cell system

Ikea continues to grow its U.S. renewable energy portfolio, with a goal of being energy independent by 2020.

The retailer has completed installation of its fifth biogas-powered fuel cell system in California – and in the country – at its East Palo Alto location in the San Francisco Bay area.

Expanding the Swedish company’s investment in fuel cell technology, the project complements the company’s focus on other renewable energies such as solar and wind. With the East Palo Alto fuel cell system installed, commissioned and operational, Ikea is on track to generate 1.5 MW in total of energy via fuel cells, supplementing onsite solar arrays atop all these stores.

“Plugging-in this fuel cell system is an exciting milestone that complements our existing rooftop solar array,” said Monica Varela, store manager. “Utilizing fuel cells will reduce our carbon footprint and help create an even more sustainable community here in the Bay Area.”

Slightly larger than the physical size of a commercial back-up generator, the 300-kw, biogas-powered project will produce approximately 2,630,452 kWh of electricity annually for the store, the equivalent of reducing 1,193 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – equal to the emissions of 252 cars or to providing electricity for 176 homes yearly.

Combined with the 302-kW solar array installed atop the store in 2011, the fuel cell project will help generate a majority of the store’s energy onsite.

For the design, development and installation of this fuel cell system, Ikea contracted Sunnyvale-based Bloom Energy, a provider of solid oxide fuel cell technology generating clean, highly-efficient on-site power.

Ikea’s U.S. sustainable efforts are wide ranging and include the following: recycling waste material; incorporating key measures into buildings with energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, recycled construction materials, warehouse skylights, and water-conserving restrooms; and operationally, no plastic bags in the check-out process, and selling only LED lighting.

In addition, it has installed electric vehicle charging stations at 16 stores and solar arrays at 90% of its locations, integrated two geothermal projects at two store locations and owns two wind farms.

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