Thin-film solar petrol tank pilot sparks new business for old energy player


US petroleum industry veteran Sprague Resources is set to top its fleet of fuel storage facilities with thin-film solar technology – and help other refiners do the same – after the success of an 87.5kW pilot array installed on one of its huge, existing petrol tanks.
The New Hampshire-based Sprague, which has been refining, storing and supplying a range of more than 20 fossil fuels since 1870 in the US, revealed its solar plans earlier this month as part of a company-wide effort to boost sustainability – both economic and environmental.
To do this, it is teaming up with Boston-based company Picktricity, which specialises in the installation of flexible, adhesive thin-film solar panels.
As Sprague tells it, Picktricity originally approached them first, to pilot the technology on one of its tanks, in 2017.
The thin-film panels are a good match for existing infrastructure like storage tanks, with their ability to be directly applied to flat surfaces, and their much lighter weight than traditional panels, particularly without the need for racks and bolts for installation.
Sprague agreed to the pilot – the installation of the 87.5kW system, on a petrol storage tank in Maine, is captured in the video below. And the result has been promising, for both companies.

Solar Panels from Firefly Aerial Solutions LLC on Vimeo.
“We put the panels on a typical storage tank to see if we could use our existing assets to generate energy savings while enhancing our sustainability efforts,” said Jay Leduc, director of Sustainability at Sprague.
“With the pilot project generating annual savings, we are excited to roll this out on many more of our tanks, and take advantage of greater savings and possible revenue generation.”
On top of plans to add more thin-film solar on its own assets, Sprague says it has also entered into “partnership talks” with Picktricity to offer the solution to other terminal operators throughout the US.
The resources company now has a web page dedicated to “solar tanks,” which offers Picktricity’s zero up-front finance deals and live monitoring, on top of minimal business disruption and, of course, emissions and cost reductions.
“Sprague is pleased to develop a partnership focused on renewable energy,” said David Glendon, president and chief executive officer at Sprague.
“Sustainable energy solutions, whether they are adding biofuels or renewable diesel, supporting wind installations, or providing turnkey solar solutions, simply make sense.
“The flexible solar panels are an excellent way for us to expand our sustainability efforts while leveraging our existing infrastructure,” Glendon said.
“Many of the options available allow terminal owners to receive power savings and environmental benefits without the requirement of capital investment.”
Kevin Maloney, the founder and CEO at Picktricity, said his company was prompted to approach Sprague for its “proven ability” to move with market changes.
“They have the deep industry knowledge and relationships, and we have the solar installation expertise with best-in-class thin-film solar technology,” Maloney said.
“We’re excited to collaborate to bring great opportunities for sustainability and electricity cost savings to the energy industry and beyond.”

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