Attendees at the April 22 sustainability open house at Performance Food Group take a look under the hood of a Volvo VNR tractor truck that is based at the Gilroy facility. Photo: Michael Moore

To celebrate Earth Day, Performance Food Group on April 22 held an open house event in Gilroy to show how they have created a sustainable distribution model at the company’s local facility.

In collaboration with a number of vendors in the transportation and distribution industries, the company’s operation on Monterey Street south of town is complete with zero-emission trucks and refrigeration trailers, high-capacity charging stations, solar power and on-site high-tech battery storage. 

While some aspects of the distribution facility’s electric power systems are not yet online, Performance Food Group says their efforts have noticeably reduced their carbon emissions. 

With the deployment of the first six Volvo VNR electric trucks and more than 30 solar powered refrigerated trailers from Advance Energy Machines—all replacing diesel-powered equipment—PFG’s Gilroy facility has reduced its carbon emissions by about 500 tons over the last three years, according to PFG. 

PFG Senior Vice President Jeff Williamson said renewable energy efforts at the Gilroy distribution center, as well as throughout the company’s North American operations, will continue to grow. The Gilroy site can accommodate up to 30 Volvo electric tractor trailers, and PFG will analyze which efforts are most efficient and resilient in their quest to become even greener. 

“This location will serve as our company’s flagship distribution warehouse for sustainability and innovation initiatives,” Williamson said at the April 22 event. “At PFG, we understand the importance of being responsible stewards of the environment, and protecting it for future generations. We remain committed to mitigating and reducing our environmental footprint through the efficient use of natural resources and the advancement of sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.” 

The April 22 open house featured demonstrations of the zero-emission Volvo trucks, 15 boost charging stations (capable of charging up to 30 trucks at a time) installed by FreeWire Technologies, and ice cream that had been kept fresh in the solar-powered refrigeration trailers—or “ice cream cooled by the sun,” as a sign at the event stated. 

“Eliminating fine particle black carbon from energy sources has been a daunting challenge for the cold chain transportation industry. We applaud the leading-edge efforts PFG has devoted to their exemplary Gilroy site, as well as their other sites being worked on,” said Robert Koelsch, CEO of AEM. “We’re honored to be a part of their carbon-reduction solution. Their leadership will surely blaze the path for others to follow.”

Attendees at the Earth Day event were also offered a short ride in the electric trucks while their drivers pulled some of the new refrigeration trailers. 

PFG purchased the Volvo trucks at the Gilroy facility from TEC Equipment – Oakland, which will provide future service for the fleet, PFG said. 

Collectively, the sustainability efforts touted at the Gilroy facility—including a significant rooftop solar power system and connected battery storage—cost PFG about $3 million in infrastructure improvements, according to PFG spokesperson Len Lamkin. 

They received some help from the state of California, which has actively sought to reduce greenhouse emissions statewide through incentives, education and enforcement of guidelines. For the Gilroy renewability efforts, PFG received about $750,000 from California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program (HVIP). 

These funds were used toward the purchase of the six new Volvo VNR electric trucks. 

David Hochschild, Chair of the California Energy Commission, touted PFG’s efforts at the Gilroy facility and how they contribute to broader efforts to “green” the state. Hochschild noted that currently, about 61% of energy used in California is renewable; and the state is on pace to reach 100% green energy by 2045. 

“This is really a postcard from the future,” Hochschild said of the Gilroy facility. “You are leading the innovation economy as well as decarbonizing our state.” 

Williamson said in planning for the facility-wide sustainability upgrade in Gilroy, PFG analyzed where most of the company’s emissions came from. Diesel powered trucks and trailers account for about two-thirds of the company’s overall carbon emissions. Following that is power to PFG facilities. 

The latter of these is also a major focus at the Gilroy plant. A new rooftop solar array will not only power the 189,000 square foot warehouse directly—it will also store large amounts of battery energy, which in turn can power the FreeWire vehicle chargers and other electric equipment. 

The solar power system is not yet online as the company is awaiting a sophisticated linkage component that has been on backorder for more than a year, according to PFG staff. 

The rooftop solar array and connected battery storage at PFG in Gilroy were produced by GridMarket, and installed by Enerlogics Networks and MBL Energy. 

“In the California market, transportation and distribution companies have two choices—do the bare minimum to meet requirements, or really embrace the opportunity to become a leader in the industry,” said Peter Schneider, director of Business Development and Project Management for GridMarket. “PFG has chosen to lead, and we are so thrilled to be supporting them in their energy and electrification journey.”

PFG is one of the largest food distribution companies in the world, employing more than 37,000 people in 150 facilities in the U.S. and Canada. More than 230 people work at the PFG facility in Gilroy, which serves the northern California market. 

Performance Food Group executives Jeff Williamson (from right) and Ryan Roberts are joined by California Energy Commission Chair David Hochschild and Davina Hurt, California Air Resources Board member for a ribbon cutting of PFG’s sustainability initiative at their Gilroy warehouse. Photo: Michael Moore
Fifteen new high-capacity electric vehicle chargers are part of PFG’s efforts to be more greener and more sustainable. Photo: Michael Moore
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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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