According to Dodge Data & Analytics, the number and size of new warehouse starts has been increasing significantly in recent years. In 2010, warehouse construction starts totaled just 49 million square feet. In 2018, however, that had climbed to 283 million square feet—almost six times as many.
Certainly, brick-and-mortar retailers that want to increase their online presence have been part of the recent growth, because they need warehouse space. However, unsurprisingly, online-only retailers are building the majority of new warehouses. Amazon, for example, broke ground for at least 44 warehouse projects in 2017, which added a combined 26.4 million square feet of new space to total warehouse space nationally.
In addition, the sizes of warehouses are increasing, too. Years ago, for example, a 1-million-square-foot warehouse was a rarity. These days, it is becoming the norm. For example, the four largest warehouse projects that broke ground in 2018 were all over 2 million square feet. In January 2019 alone, four new warehouse projects of at least 1 million square feet broke ground.
While this growing demand for new and larger warehouses should be of interest to electrical contractors in general, of even more interest is another trend. According to Utility Dive, more companies are seeking to build more energy-independent warehouses—complete with their own solar (either rooftop solar or solar canopies over the warehouse parking lots), battery storage, and/or other microgrid technologies, that are reducing their reliance on power from local electric utilities.
For most warehouses, lighting accounts for the biggest pull on energy. Other energy demands include refrigeration, cooling, computing, ventilating, office and space heating.
Companies are particularly interested in being able to use their warehouses' own power sources during peak demand hours when power from local utilities is the most expensive, and they are interested in having their own temporary power sources in the event of power outages. In other words, more brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers are islanding their warehouse power sources.