DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens announced on March 7, 2013 plans to build what the company believes will be the nation’s first net zero energy retail store, which engineers predict will produce 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 committed to reducing our carbon footprint and leading the retail industry in use of green technology,” said Thomas Connolly, Walgreens vice president of facilities development. “We are investing in developing a net-zero store so we can learn the best way to bring these features to our other stores. Because we operate 8,000 stores, we believe our pursuit of green technology can have a significant positive impact on the nation’s environment.”
The 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.
Walgreens plans to generate electricity and reduce its usage by more than 40 percent through several technologies in the store including:
- 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 that the store will use 200,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity while generating 256,000 kilowatt hours per year.
“This planned building development reflects the City of Evanston’s ongoing commitment to the constant improvement of sustainable practices in the natural and built environment and will serve as an excellent example of how responsible development and the environment can be harmoniously combined,” said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “Green building is important to Evanston as it is good for business, good for the environment, good for our health and essential to our future. We are honored that Walgreens has chosen our community to build the nation’s first net zero energy retail store that will be LEED certified as well.”
Walgreens will attempt to have the store achieve LEED Platinum status, which is the most stringent green designation by the U. S. 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.
“Partners in the Better Buildings Challenge are leading by example, showing firsthand how energy efficient buildings save money by saving energy,” said David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the Department of Energy. “The investments made through the Better Buildings Challenge are helping to cut energy waste while saving millions in energy costs, creating jobs nationwide and helping to position the United States to lead in the global economy.”
The project is the latest of many green initiatives for the company. Walgreens currently operates two stores that have achieved a LEED certification level of gold and certified; 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 (lowest wattage in the industry), 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.