By Nadine Long
The image that most often comes to mind when we think of self storage facilities is rows and rows of garage doors. But beneath that none-too-exciting exterior, storage facilities are the perfect incubators for new energy technologies.
Green buildings can use one-third less energy and half the water of standard buildings, and self storage facilities are the perfect testing grounds for energy conservation.
The most obvious green technology for storage facilities to implement is solar energy. Their typical structure is perfect for solar panels: rows of standardized buildings with flat roofs. StorageMart, a major self storage company, has invested in solar panels at their Toronto locations, spurred by so-called net metering rules in Canada that require utilities to purchase energy generated from renewable sources (most U.S. states have similar laws).
Because storage facilities use relatively little energy (the electricity in individual units is off most of the time), the possibility of generating excess energy to sell back to the utility is high. Before installing any panels, facility owners do need to be aware of any potential caps on how much electricity the utility will buy, so check with your local provider.
Beyond green energy, storage facility owners are increasingly considering the wider environmental impacts of their businesses. Last year, a storage facility in Hawaii made an agreement with the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to not develop on 1,276 acres of land next to their business. Big Yellow Self Storage in Bromley, a borough of London, recently received an Environmental Award for its many improvements, including creating garden areas for water runoff to naturally purify it, instead of sending it rushing into the sewer system, where it can carry toxins like oil residue from pavement.
As many businesses continue to move toward more green practices, storage facilities can contribute through simple changes like replacing lighting with fluorescent bulbs, setting up on-site recycling centers, and building new facilities or sections with recycled materials (learn more about energy-efficient and green lighting practices with this book by National Geographic’s Brian Clark Howard). As one example, Boulder Self Storage in Boulder, Colorado, uses recyclable building materials, solar panels to charge their facility and golf carts, and lights set on motion sensors to save energy.
As consumers show preference for more and more green products (there are even tips for how to be green while storing), storage facilities will follow suit.