One of the most wasteful processes in food sales is grocery and display refrigeration.
These systems literally throw money into thin air. Folks open the doors, consider their purchases and let cold air escape. Some cases, such as those for vegetables in groceries, don’t even have doors: The cold air simply floats away.
Earlier this month, a Whole Foods Market in Santa Clara, CA opened with a innovative refrigeration technology. The system uses propane to condense carbon dioxide, which is piped through the refrigeration system, according to Gas World. The main thrust of the story is that the system is more environmentally sound than other approaches.
It is serendipitous that environmentalism goes hand-in-hand with energy efficiency. The core system uses less energy and introduces a unique form of cogeneration:
With high heat carrying properties, the use of CO2 reduces both the amount of refrigerant needed and the energy required to run refrigeration systems. Simultaneously, a heat reclaim system captures the heat generated by the system, and uses it to preheat water for the store’s later use, while also supplementing space heating. This allows the store to greatly reduce the amount of natural gas burned to heat water.
Federal and in some cases state laws are changing the refrigeration picture as well. Those changes are occurring against a backdrop of an expanding market. Zion Research earlier this month released a report that said the global commercial refrigeration market was valued at $36.63 billion last year and will grow to a value of $61.44 billion by the end of 2021. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is a bit more than 9 percent from this year through 2021.
Festival Foods is another grocery chain that is mixing environmental advocacy with energy efficiency. Energy Manager Today sister site Environment Leader reported in August that Festival Foods is switching the equipment in its Somers, WI, store to run on Solstice N40 instead of more commonly used R404A. Others locations will follow.
Progressive Grocer also reported on the move. It said that the testing done by Festival indicated that the move will cut energy consumption by 3 percent in low temperature applications and 5 percent to 16 percent in medium temperature applications compared to R404A.
Cooltech Applications also made an announcement on refrigeration. In June, it said its energy efficient and environmental progressive technology will be used in refrigerated display cases made by Structural Concepts. Cooltech says that its system use water instead of refrigerant to provide cooling. This results in less pollution, quieter compressors and a reduction in energy use by as much as half, the company said.
Sometimes the greatest gains in energy efficiency can be made by addressing issues that are hiding in plain sight. Refrigeration is one of those issues. The stars, to some extent, seem to be aligning for this to be one of the next frontiers in the endless quest for energy efficiency. There are various ways to address refrigeration issues. It seems that the nature of the challenge makes it possible for significant — and fairly inexpensive — improvements are possible.
Changes in rules and regulations are more or less mandating that this battle be fought. The rapidity with which announcements are made points to progress. This is particularly true because there seem to be a number of approaches. Logic suggests that such diversification increases the odds of meeting the challenge. Finally, the realization that, at least in this case, taking care of the environment has the side benefit of taking care of the pocketbook. This, more than anything else, suggests that the industry will find a way – or perhaps several – of meeting the challenges.
In June, Energy Manager Today posted a podcast interview with two executives — CEO Dave Mac Isaac and Managing Director Ken Strachan – from Freeaire about managing refrigeration.