Chicago-Area Beer Distributor Kicks Off 2021 by Going Solar

Kloss Distributing
Kloss Distributing in Gurnee, Illinois.

Residents of Lake County, Illinois, can drink a little greener in 2021 thanks to the solar installation that now powers Kloss Distributing in Gurnee. Kloss Distributing moves four million cases of beer, wine and soft drinks to 1,500 locations across Lake County each year — and starting in 2021, all of the company’s electricity will be generated by the solar panels that cover Kloss’ warehouse roof.

From left: Mike Kloss, COO of Kloss Distributing Co.; State Rep. Rita Mayfield; Tom Kloss, CEO of Kloss Distributing Co.; and Tony Jaswal, vice president of General Energy Corp., tour the Kloss warehouse, which General Energy Corp. recently fitted with solar panels.

Kloss Distributing has operated in northern Illinois since 1973. The Kloss family had for years wanted to install solar to lower the business’ energy costs and make operations more sustainable. In 2020, the company decided to act on the opportunity. Advances in solar technology, combined with the availability of federal and state incentives, meant the Kloss solar array would pay for itself in roughly two years and generate $70,000 in energy savings every year thereafter. As President Mike Kloss puts it, “It’s a good business decision and great for the environment.”

The Kloss installation was one of more than 10,000 solar installations completed in Illinois in 2020. Policy changes in the Prairie State helped to improve the economics of solar for project owners and encouraged residents and businesses across the state take advantage of clean energy. 

Kloss partnered with General Energy Corporation (GEC), based in nearby Elk Grove Village, to provide a turnkey solar solution that covered 100% of the company’s electric needs. GEC designed and installed the project, managed the connection to the electric grid and trained Kloss staff on the operation of the system. GEC also helped Kloss apply for incentives through state and federal renewable energy programs to make sure the distributor maximized its return on investment.

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Kloss Distributing’s 700 kw solar array is made up of 1,773 Sunpower Series P solar panels that offer 7%higher panel efficiency and up to 19% more total energy production than conventional panels. The panels cover much of Kloss’ 81,000 square feet of roof space, using a racking system that tilts the panels for optimal energy production without piercing the roof membrane. Ten SMA inverters manage energy generation from the solar panels to power Kloss’ operations and deliver excess energy back to the electric grid as needed. The system has a low profile and isn’t visible from street level, but provides all the power that dozens of Kloss employees need to do their jobs

By generating its own clean solar electricity, Kloss Distributing will reduce CO2 pollution by 639 metric tons each year — the equivalent to taking 138 cars off the road. But solar power is just the beginning of the cleaner future Kloss is planning for its operations. The company’s next step will be to transition its delivery fleet to electric vehicles, starting by replacing smaller delivery vans with electric models in the near term and bringing in larger electric trucks in the coming years. 

After 47 years in business, Kloss is continuing to invest in making operations more economic and more sustainable. The Kloss family is confident that switching to solar power will help their business continue to succeed for generations to come.

This article was submitted by Tony Jaswal, executive vice president of General Energy Corporation.

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