An array of 7,200 solar panels on a 300,000-square-foot roof at Badia Spices’ Sweetwater facility is now the largest privately-owned solar project in Florida. CONTRIBUTED

Badia Spices has completed the installation of a rooftop solar array on its 300,000 square foot distribution and production facility in Sweetwater, Florida, making it the largest privately-owned solar project in Florida as of February 2023.

The 3.24-MWDC system was designed and installed by SALT Energy of Marathon. The array comprises 40 inverters and 7,200 solar panels and is capable of producing more than 3,240,000 watts DC of power output, which will offset approximately 80% of the facility’s electricity consumption. 

This is the second Badia Spices facility to undergo a transition to solar power. In April 2019, SALT Energy completed installation of a 529-kWDC rooftop system at the 100,000-square-foot Badia Spices warehouse in Doral.

“As a leading family-owned Hispanic food company, we are proud of our commitment to build sustainable and environmentally responsible practices to help green our supply chain and decrease our carbon footprint,” said Joseph (Pepe) Badia, president of Badia Spices.

Badia and his wife Nancy also contracted SALT to install one of the largest residential solar arrays in Florida on their waterfront home in Miami’s Coconut Grove. Leading the way in rooftop solar, Badia Spices plans to further decrease its carbon footprint by continuing to add solar projects to its other facilities in the coming years.

The solar array at Badia’s Sweetwater Warehouse is producing at a rate of 5,045,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. This is equivalent to 696 homes’ electricity use for one year, and will result in 3,941 tons of CO2 emissions reduction each year. 

SALT Energy’s partnership with SunPower and PanelClaw for this project brought a technology-leading solar modules company together with a top flat roof racking provider in North America using state-of-the-art engineering practices.

SunPower – and now Maxeon, which was spun off in August 2020 – are recognized as sustainability leaders in the solar industry. SunPower’s “Beneficial by Design” philosophy aims to be a regenerative force on society and the environment. From their industry standard Cradle to Cradle Certified Maxeon line of interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cells to their Zero Waste to Landfill manufacturing sites, SunPower and Maxeon are among industry leaders in environmental stewardship. The Maxeon IBC solar panel product lines are some of the top-rated panels in the industry for efficiency and degradation rates while offering excellent durability backed by 37 years of engineering. This culminates in a power and performance warranty which was recently extended to 40 years.

Inverters located inside the warehouse convert the DC output of the panels to usable AC current. CONTRIBUTED

The early coordination between SALT and Badia on the project included the HVAC system being moved off of the rooftop during remodeling as well as removing significant shading effects and setbacks from rooftop equipment that would have greatly limited the solar potential of the roof. 

“The requirement by our customer to avoid roof membrane penetrations for anchoring the array to preserve the warranty, coupled with the hurricane wind load design requirements in Miami-Dade County, posed the two greatest technical challenges for our Badia Spices project,” said David Kaul, SALT’s vice president of engineering and operations. 

“We chose PanelClaw because they have the industry’s most advanced, peer-reviewed engineering models for design of solar arrays on flat roofs,” said Kaul. In addition to incorporating PanelClaw’s state-of-the-art racking system, SALT turned to Anchor Products for roof anchors that attach directly to a fully adhered roofing system by hot air welding, rather than relying on penetrating roofing screws. 

SALT completed the project construction in eight months. Commissioning occurred in November 2022, and the utility granted permission to operate on Dec. 1, 2022. There were many challenges to overcome in order to obtain required approvals from the utility and the local permitting authority. Through a spirit of cooperation between Badia Spices personnel, utility personnel, the local authorities and SALT, SunPower and PanelClaw, the many challenges were overcome smoothly, leading to a successful outcome and a showcase project.

In Miami-Dade County alone, there are hundreds of acres of unused logistic center rooftops. With the tax savings allowable by the Inflation Reduction Act, there has never been a better time to put the unused rooftop space to work. 

“With this project we have proven that large-scale rooftop solar is viable in South Florida,” said Kaul. “We have shown that we can meet the code requirements for hurricane wind loads, and preserve membrane roof warranties while dramatically greening up the supply chain. We look forward to doing many more.”