Whole Foods Market Cuts Operational Costs with Refrigeration Battery Pilot Test

A Whole Foods Market in Los Altos, California, has become the first retail site to install a thermal energy storage solution called the Refrigeration Battery from Richmond, California-based Axiom Exergy, the two companies announced on April 25. The new solution is expected to help the supermarket to shif tup to 1040 kWh of electricity load for up to 10 hours a day over the course of several months. 

By leveraging the store’s existing refrigeration system, the Refrigeration Battery stores “cooling” at night by freezing tanks of salt water when energy costs are low. Then, when electricity prices peak during the afternoon, the battery “discharges” like any other battery to provide uninterrupted cooling services.

Axiom offers the Refrigeration Battery to its customers via a savings-as-a-service model, requiring no upfront capital or out-of-pocket expense for the life of the project; it is considered an energy service and off-balance sheet, enabling supermarket owners to reserve capital for revenue-generating investments. The technology has an estimated lifespan of 25 years.

Without any changes to staff behavior or daily operations, the pilot test of the energy storage platform “demonstrated consistent, daily electricity load-shifting by offsetting electricity used by refrigeration compressors and condensers to off-peak times of day,” the companies said– offering “utility bill management ideal for supermarkets.”

In addition, Whole Foods Market facility managers now receive real-time information about the system’s performance via Axiom’s integrated cloud monitoring platform – including enterprise-level monitoring and analytics, historical data and real-time key performance indicators, such as kWh shifted, peak kW reduced, and battery charge level.

Refrigeration represents about 50 percent of an average supermarket’s electricity consumption. Research shows that by shifting electricity demand to off-peak hours, supermarket owners can take advantage of lower night-time rates to reduce a store’s expensive on-peak electricity demand by up to 40 percent.

“We are proud to be leading our industry by being the first to use such an innovative technology to shift our large refrigeration-based energy loads to off-peak hours,” said Tristam Coffin, director of Sustainability & Facilities at Whole Foods.

“The Refrigeration Battery is no longer a concept; it is a commercial reality,” said Amrit Robbins, president of Axiom. “We are gratified that Whole Foods Market is serving as an example of how to implement scalable and low-risk energy storage options. By deploying the Refrigeration Battery, businesses can convert power-hungry refrigeration systems into intelligent assets that can respond dynamically to the needs of the facility and the grid operator, taking into account energy prices, weather patterns, and grid programs like demand response.”

The Refrigeration Battery was installed at the Los Altos Whole Foods Market as a passive retrofit without modification of the existing refrigeration system or reprogramming of controls. The Axiom System Integrator was sited in the facility’s mechanical room adjacent to the compressor racks and the thermal storage tanks were placed in the loading dock area behind the store.

“Given the unique shape of a supermarket’s demand profile, which is relatively flat compared with other commercial buildings, Whole Foods Market needed a cost-effective energy storage solution capable of providing long-duration load shifting, as opposed to peak shaving typically provided by electrochemical systems,” said Anthony Diamond, CTO of Axiom. “By demonstrating consistent, daily electricity load-shifting, the Whole Foods Market installation marks an industry-first and game-changer for facilities with large refrigeration-based energy loads.”

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