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FedEx Express Breaks Ground on Its Largest Solar Facility and First Outside the US

FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., broke ground on its largest solar facility and first outside the US, when it began construction of its new Central and Eastern European gateway at the Cologne/Bonn, Germany, airport. The hub is slated for completion in 2010.

The Cologne hub installation will be a 1.4-megawatt (MW) solar power system and will generate approximately 1.3 GWh of electricity per year, equivalent to the annual consumption of 370 households. Solar panels, fitted to the roof of the new ramp and sort facilities, will cover a total surface area of 16,000 square meters.

The facility will be equipped with new ramp, freight and sort facilities with a fully-automated sort system that will cover a floor space of approximately 50,000 square meters. FedEx opted to build its new hub in Cologne because of the region’s freight transport infrastructure and the central location of the airport within Germany and Europe.

The solar-energy installation at the Cologne hub will nearly double FedEx’s use of on-site solar energy, according to Mitch Jackson, director of environmental affairs and sustainability.

In August 2005, FedEx flipped the switch on a solar-electric system at its regional hub in Oakland, then California’s largest such rooftop system. In its first three years, it has provided more than three million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean energy, avoiding the release of more than 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The system can provide approximately 20% of the facility’s total electricity needs and can meet 80% of its peak load demand.

Most recently FedEx Freight completed the installation of solar-electric systems, supplied by BP Solar, at facilities in Whittier and Fontana, California. The three California systems generate 1.5 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, avoiding the release of 2.9 million pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

In Geneva, Switzerland, a FedEx station uses a geothermal system to provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.



one day, one day something like this will come to the US

Neilen Marais

DS: Uhm, if you actually bother to read you'll see they already have similar installations in the US.

Kit P

More greenwashing! It is easy enough to provide the performance of the system if you are going to the trouble of issuing a press release.

Shirley W.

That is PRETTY DARN GOOD! And I'll bet you thought that Fed EX was only good for deliverying things. NOT ANY MORE..............


If I did my math correctly, that is 87 watts per square meter. Is that the current industry standard?


I'm confused how can it deliver 80% peak but only 20% total. Unless it relates to night time and weather factors.
Must be right.

Can this only happen where larger subsidies apply?


Laudable, but...

1.3GWh/year = 148kW constant draw, 7/24/365.

And that's 20% of their total annual electricity usage. So they're using three quarters of a megawatt, constantly, to move boxes around? I think it's time they started slaying some energy hogs inside that building, rather than sprinkling shiny trinkets on the roof.


Just out of my curiosity.Where do they purchase the solar panels from?

nrg nut

@ rob:

A few rare earth magnet motors would probably help.


Subsidies help but are not completely necessary. The timescales of the lifetime of a solar cell and the low maintenance costs put the payback within the lifetime of the cells. Unfortuneately, that is far longer than most are willing to wait. Long term contracts are necessary to ensure a stable enough market environment so that companies are willing to invest through the periods involved. Sunedison for example does this for various companies.

Sharpsolar installed the California installation (Fedex Oakland sort facility, 2005). Other sources quoted are BP solar.

By meeting the large peak period demands when electricity prices and demands are the greatest, this solar electricity lowers grid demands and strains and decreases the payback period. Peak prices can be as much as 10 times base load prices especially in high demand areas. Although the Oakland facility has the capacity for feedback into the grid, it never happens. It displaces energy they would otherwise get from the grid which would've been at higher prices.

Over the lifetime of the facility, these solar panels will more than pay for themselves. Crystalline cells so far, have exceeded their advertised lifetimes. Already, some 25 year cells still have over 90% of their rated capacity. This may change but that would be speculation.

Although solar may not be competitive for now from a productive point of view, in terms of maximizing profits, it makes sense in terms of the consumer, where displaced power from the grid, especially peak power, may create overall savings opportunities.

At present from 2002 to the present, solar has gotten the lion's share of venture capital for green power, around 56% or 3.3 billion US for the US.

This is an excellent use of solar technology and we can hope for more projects like this in the future. Long range planning is necessary for the use of solar and that is usually not the domain of the majority of domestic users.


I understand solar in Germany gets huge subsidies. This probably needs it. Even so aym makes some good points.

FedEx hubs are huge and likely to operate for decades. And their solar will cut use most when grid electricity cost is highest.

They probably get very fast depreciation on the installation. That will really cut their taxes beginning now.

As solar capture improves they will only need to upgrade the collectors. All else will be in place.

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