Truck Rooftop Solar Study Results on Cabot Creamery Cheese Trucks in the U.S.

A three-month study phase has ended for solar photovoltaic (PV) integrated reefer truck rooftops in the United States. Fraunhofer CSE (in Boston, MA) and Fraunhofer ISE (in Freiburg Germany) worked in cooperation with Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamery Cooperative, based in Vermont, on the U.S. study of an installation of solar PV modules onto two Cabot Creamery refrigerated cheese trucks. By placing sensors on the roof of these trucks, the study recorded the amount of potential energy that could have been produced while driving delivery routes across the Northeast from October through December.

(Four trucks from German logistics companies were also equipped with identical monitoring hardware and recording the solar potential on transport routes across Central Europe since June. Read the press release on just the European study results here.)

These PV modules can help power the refrigeration system whether the trucks are in motion or stationary. As the ambient temperature rises with solar irradiation, the solar power supply overlaps with cooling demand, reducing the need for large amounts of storage capacity. The resulting decrease in fuel consumption reduces cost and mitigates air pollution.

Photo credit: Fraunhofer ISE

The above example shows a route traveled by one Agri-Mark truck in October 2016 and a table showing the irradiance of the truck’s rooftop over the course of its route. With the measured data, precise economical calculations can be made for truck owners to determine if the investment in a PV system on the truck roof is paying off in a reasonable time. The trucks in this study were moving, on average, of 25% of the time, and roughly 75% of the time, the trucks were parked in their home port. During parked time, the generated electricity could be used for other purposes, such as feeding into the factory grid, or pre-cooling the truck.

For both the U.S. and Central Europe studies, yield was greatly impacted by the the region and travel routes of the trucks.. 11% of the yield was achieved in southern regions where the trucks were traveling for 8% of the time. On the other hand, 61% of the yield was achieved in the northern regions with 67% traveling time.

Image credit: Fraunhofer CSE

It was determined that there is a significant fuel savings potential for these kinds of commercial vehicles overall. However, the savings potential strongly depends on the truck’s route and time spent in the home port. For the Cabot trucks, a potential savings of 290 gallons of Diesel per year was measured, assuming PV coverage of the full roof area of the trailer.

This is a very conservative calculation, as it is based on data collected during the New England fall and winter months. The potential savings could be doubled during the summer months when there is more daylight and higher irradiation.

The full results of this study will be presented and published at the EUPVSEC in Amsterdam in September 2017.

Fraunhofer CSE would like to thank Cabot Creamery for its cooperation in the US part of this study to help find solutions in sustainability and renewable energy.

About author
Lindsey Dillon is Fraunhofer CSE’s Marketing Manager. She is responsible for all marketing collateral and CSE’s outreach and social media communications.
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