Making Energy On-Site


More and more retailers are embracing renewable energy in a bid to reduce energy costs and reduce their carbon footprints. Here is a look at the latest initiatives from two chains:

Albertsons: Albertsons’ newest location in the San Diego Clairemont neighborhood was built from the ground up to be energy efficient. The 55,000-sq.-ft. supermarket is generating nearly 90% of its energy needs with a 400kW natural-gas fuel cell that converts natural gas to electricity without burning it.

Built by UTC Power, a part of United Technologies Corp., South Windsor, Conn., the fuel cell significantly reduces the store’s reliance on electricity from the grid and its impact on the environment. Byproduct heat from the fuel cell process is captured and used to warm water used in the store, heat the facility when necessary and power a chiller to help cool the refrigerated food, resulting in an overall energy efficiency of approximately 60%—nearly twice the efficiency of the U.S. electrical grid.

Additionally, if there is a power outage within the area, the store will be able to operate without disruption because the bulk of the electricity is generated on-site by the fuel cell. With guaranteed power at all times for refrigeration, HVAC, cash registers and lighting, Albertsons will be able to avoid costly food spoilage and ensure a reliable food supply in emergency situations. On the eco front, the project is estimated to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 478 metric tons each year compared with California nonbaseload powerplants.

“When it comes to minimizing our environmental footprint, the Clairemont store is a tremendous achievement for us,” said Rick Crandall, director of environmental stewardship, Albertsons, which operates 463 Albertsons and Lucky supermarkets throughout the West and Northwest, and is part of Supervalu. “With the assistance of UTC Power’s fuel cell, it’s our first store that significantly reduces its burden on the power grid.”

The Clairemont store energy upgrade marks the second time that Supervalu has used fuel-cell technology. In 2009, the chain’s Star Market division opened a store in Chestnut Hill, Mass., that utilizes a fuel cell to produce 400kW of on-site energy.

Ikea: Ikea has long been a champion of clean technology, and now it’s testing the waters for big-box geothermal heating and cooling.

The home furnishings retailer has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to install a geothermal heating system in an under-construction store in the Denver suburb of Centennial, Colo. The 415,000-sq.-ft. Ikea is scheduled to open in fall 2011.

The system, which is being installed under the store’s parking garage, will feature 130 five-and-a-half-in. diameter holes, each located 500 ft. deep in the earth. A liquid will loop down through a piping system from the surface to the bottom of the underground holes, where it will bring warm or cold air (depending on the store’s needs) back up to the surface.

The geothermal system won’t be able to accomodate all the store’s heating and cooling needs—Ikea will have a backup ice storage system to provide additional cooling on the warmest days of the year. But the system will keep the store at a comfortable temperature most of the time.

The Ikea/NREL project could be a benchmark for geothermal installation in large-scale retail stores nationwide. NREL’s database will be open to researchers around the world for use in their models.

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