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Walgreens Builds Net Zero Energy Retail Store

Linda Hardesty

Walgreens plans to build what it believes will be the nation’s first net zero energy retail store, producing energy equal to or greater than it consumes.

Walgreens plans to achieve that by utilizing solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal technology, energy-efficient building materials, LED lighting and ultra-high-efficiency refrigeration.

“We are investing in developing a net-zero store so we can learn the best way to bring these features to our other stores,” said Thomas Connolly, Walgreens vice president of facilities development.” Walgreens operates 8,000 stores nationwide.

The first net-zero store will be located in Evanston, Ill., at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Keeney Street, where demolition of an existing Walgreens store now is under way. The Chicago-area location will allow convenient access for Walgreens engineers based at the company’s headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., to measure the store’s performance for an entire year to determine if the store reaches its goal of net zero energy use.

The store will include:

  • more than 800 roof-top solar panels,
  • two wind turbines,
  • geothermal energy obtained by drilling 550-feet into the ground below the store, where temperatures are more constant and can be tapped to heat or cool the store in winter and summer,
  • LED lighting and daylight harvesting,
  • carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment,
  • and energy efficient building materials.

Engineering estimates, which can vary due to factors such as weather, store operations and systems performance, indicate the store will use 200,000 kWh per year while generating 256,000 kWh per year.

Some of the earliest attempts at being net zero have struggled. The Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies on the campus of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, was built to be a net zero energy building, but it still needed to pull energy from the grid for 11 years.

Over the past year, Walgreens engineers have worked with the city of Evanston and vendors, including Trane, CREE Lighting, Acuity Lighting, Cooper Lighting, CalStar Products, GE Lighting, Geothermal International, SoCore Energy, Wing Power and Camburas and Theodore Architects.

Walgreens will attempt to have the store achieve LEED Platinum status from the US Green Building Council, and plans to enter the store into the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge. The store will be Walgreens second showcase project in the Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, Walgreens has committed to a chain-wide 20 percent energy reduction by 2020.

The Better Buildings Challenge is gaining momentum. Recently, Sprint became the first telecommunications company to join the program. And more than 100 companies have joined the DOE’s Better Plants program.

As for Walgreens, its net zero project is the latest of several green initiatives for the company. Walgreens currently operates two stores that have achieved LEED Gold certification; 150 stores utilizing solar power; a store in Oak Park, Ill., using geothermal energy; a distribution center in Waxahachie, Texas, that generates energy though the use of wind; and 400 locations with electric vehicle charging stations. Walgreens stores use 25 watt fluorescent lamps, LED cooler and freezer lighting and energy management systems in more than 5,000 locations. In addition, 15 Walgreens distribution centers have achieved net zero waste, which means revenues from recycling exceed waste expense.



4 comments on “Walgreens Builds Net Zero Energy Retail Store

  1. This is excellent news and hopefully will become a trailblazer for other companies to follow suit! However, one key item missing from the article is payback. While I am all for the environmental benefits, those agnostic to sustainability will require a solid business case – which typically calls for payback constraints to be met.

  2. I agree companies do need to be conscience of the bottom line. That bottom line will increase by the savings in utility bills, increased customer base(wish we could measure how many folks switch due to liking their energy policy), and helping our ailing planet( not a number easy to measure

  3. For any company wanting to truly measure their sustainability and additionally identify the wasted energy that is lost prior to consumption you have to check out the BFM-136 from Satec. They are saving companies 10-30% on electrical by monitoring, identifying and helping you to remediate.

  4. Retail buildings are inherently energy inefficient so if Walgreens can offer a near net -zero construction model that is repeatable, economies of scale will kick in.

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