As pharmacies have morphed into quasi-convenience stores offering refrigerated produce, kiosks of all kinds and various other electricity-eating features, their power needs have soared, not dissimilarly from the rest of retail. Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) has decided to try to do something about it, building an advanced net zero energy store near Chicago, complete with 850 solar panels, two 35-foot wind turbines and eight 550-foot-deep geothermal wells. This is on top of the standard LED lighting, energy-efficient building materials and carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration.
Walgreen has drilled eight 550-foot holes for pipes to create a geothermal energy system that will use the constant temperature of soil to heat and cool the building, according to The New York Times. "The so-called geothermal wells will carry a water/glycol mixture at a constant temperature of 55 degrees. This means that the store will consume only enough electricity to be heated or cooled another 17 degrees or so to reach a typical 72-degree temperature."
But Walgreen's plan is not to merely use—and pay for—a lot less energy. It is trying to turn energy into a profit-maker, with this store able to generate more energy than it's expected to use. If that happens, it plans to sell the excess electricity back to the local utility. Walgreen plans to push this turn-energy-into-net-income concept to other retailers.
Walgreen building planners and engineers estimate the net zero store will use about 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity over a year's time while generating about 256,000 kilowatt-hours during the same period.
"There are a lot of other retailers that consume less energy per square foot—when you think of a clothing store—but Walgreen does sell it all, so it makes a net zero store much more challenging to pull off," said Menno Enters, Walgreen director of energy and sustainability. "If Walgreen can do this, a lot of other retailers can do this."
The net zero concept is part of the retail giant's overall sustainability plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent by 2020 across all of its more than 8,000 stores, including Duane Reade stores in the New York City area.
Walgreen did not release the costs of creating the new building—which it hopes to have open by Thanksgiving—simply saying that the cost of the construction will "be about twice that of a typical new store," the Times story said.
The chain has already heard from many environmental groups wanting to tour the prototype store. "This could become a tourist attraction," Enters said.
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- See The New York Times story