Cut Energy, Save Costs

By Ruari McCallion

September 2022

Resource efficiency in warehouses

Reducing consumption of energy has been a priority for some time, but the spike in prices of oil and gas has led to electricity and other power prices reaching unprecedented heights. This means that financial and sustainability arguments have converged. Ruari McCallion reports.

The drive to net zero makes more commercial sense than ever. Buildings and the activities that go on inside them account for a huge proportion of CO2 emissions; the good news is that even existing building stock can be technologically retrofitted to improve energy performance. Changes in practices and operations can have a significant effect on energy bills, without requiring heavy upfront investment.

Towards Net-Zero Buildings is a report presented to 2022’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting at Davos, Switzerland, by Schneider Electric, the French-headquartered global energy and automation digital solutions company. It says that the construction and operation of buildings is responsible for 38% of all global emissions. While a quarter of those are ‘embodied’, from the production of materials and equipment for construction and internal furnishings, the majority – 75% – are generated by building systems themselves. That includes the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), lighting and IT systems. In a warehouse, heat is given off by forklift trucks, by lighting and by people – the staff who run and operate the place.

Magna Park Berlin-Werder_Germany

Magna Park Berlin-Werder, Germany. As well as being designed and built by GLP to an eco-friendly template, the scale of the building illustrates the scope for extending roof-mounted solar panelling even beyond whatever is fitted as standard.

Better management

Simple things, like closing doors during cold weather (or opening them in the warmer season), and turning off lights when not needed, can have an impact without outlay. For a small investment, lighting can be made motion sensitive and so automatically switch off when not required – and the same with HVAC. Moving from manual controls to IoT (internet of things) zone-controlled monitoring can cut energy demand by 30 to 50%. Electrification of heating, in place of gas- or oil-fired boilers, can cut bills by 50 to 65%. Installing rooftop solar panels and energy storage systems can achieve similar results.

Better, more sustainable building

GLP, whose ‘fade to blue’ external colour scheme is widely familiar, has built and currently manages over 4.6 million square metres of logistics space across 12 countries in Europe. These include the main markets of Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, UK, Italy and Spain. Customers include Amazon. GLP built what is claimed to be the world’s first net-zero carbon warehouse.

The company has been a pioneer of environmentally sensitive warehouse design and building. Rainwater collection and recycling into ‘grey’ water supply, for use in toilets and non-critical applications, is standard in all its developments, as is heat recovery in HVAC. Entrances are through automatic, airlock-style draught lobbies. Water is heated by solar thermal panels mounted on the roof; office lighting is daylight-linked, which means that locations closest to windows will be dimmed and all lighting is switched off when not required.

There are also technological opportunities for existing facilities to transform energy performance.

The vehicles used in materials handling also have room for improvement.

2022_05_27 GLP_Oaxis_ Render general GPL (Gazeley)

Oaxis GLP Park Madrid Villaverde project.

Solar power and energy storage

Connected Energy claims to be the world’s leading supplier of ‘second life’ battery energy storage systems (BESS). Matthew Lumsden, its CEO, says that “there is probably no business sector in the UK more suited to using BESS to address energy costs and performance than warehousing.”

Warehouses are typically large and have a huge surface area on the roof. The area that solar pv (photovoltaic) panels can cover is so big that, even at higher latitudes, the amount of usable power that can be generated becomes significant.

BESS systems are made from recovered vehicle batteries, which is an environmental plus point in itself. Even warehouses that have already installed energy-saving measures could do with thinking about BESS and solar pv; as the number of electric vehicles rises, the need for charging points will follow suit. Solar pv with BESS could be a low-cost source of power for employees’ cars.


Katrick Technologies, headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland, has developed a wind-powered electricity generating system that is much smaller than conventional wind towers and turbines.

Lighter, smaller, more efficient wind power

Wind power should not be overlooked – and rarely is – but the expense and complexity of installing full-sized towers can be offputting. A company recently founded in the UK has developed a flexible system that could overcome those concerns. Katrick Technologies, headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland, is working with Howard Tenens Property to demonstrate roof-mounted versions of its wind power generators, which are somewhat different from the usual turbines.

They have a small footprint, do not stand on towers and use aerofoils rather than sails to capture kinetic energy – an approach that the company says is more efficient. Katrick Technologies claims that its generators have a low cost of ownership, supplying electricity at 8p/kW (0.09 Euros/kW) – far cheaper than current conventionally generated energy and most wind power solutions. They can be fitted to existing buildings or structures and, because they are low profile, are less likely to encounter planning objections.

Waste-powered IC engines

The vehicles used in materials handling also have room for improvement. While forklift trucks operating inside warehouses are now overwhelmingly electrically powered, external activities may well still be conducted by trucks with internal combustion (IC) engines. The price of diesel and conventional LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) has concentrated minds, so the launch of Calor Futuria Gas, a sustainable fuel made from a blend of waste, residues and sustainably sourced materials, is timely. Calor is a subsidiary of SHV Gas Group, the privately owned Dutch trading company.

The Futuria fuel is chemically identical to standard LPG, so existing forklift fleets would not have to be replaced; the current LPG tank would be switched to a Calor one at changeover. Refuelling takes only a few minutes.

In summary, there are several measures that warehouse and logistics operators can take to reduce the impact of the huge spike in energy prices – and the good news is that immediate solutions are available; you don’t have to buy and move into a new building. In the long term, a purpose-built warehouse, designed and constructed from the outset to be sustainable and energy-saving, will deliver the highest benefits, but a great deal can be done immediately.