Whole Foods Market, a retail pioneer in the development and deployment of alternative energy sources, continues to expand on its commitment to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by using on-site alternative- and renewable-energy sources. Here is a roundup of some recent initiatives.
Solar/Wind: The company has contracted to add solar panels to more than 20 locations. Including potential future rollout phases, Whole Foods hopes to have close to 70 locations with rooftop solar panels, which is nearly one-quarter of its store portfolio.
In 2009, for the third consecutive year, Whole Foods contracted for wind energy credits to offset 100% of its non-renewable electricity use in its North American stores. This brings its four-year total purchase to 2 million megawatt-hours of renewable-energy credits from wind farms.
According to various reports, the company also is looking to build a large wind turbine on the waterfront of Gloucester, Mass., that would power its fish-processing plant there.
Fuel cells: In a first for a supermarket, Whole Foods Market is hosting and paying for the energy delivered by an on-site hydrogen fuel cell. The application, at Whole Foods’ store in Glastonbury, Conn., generates 50% of the electricity and heat and nearly 100% of the hot water needed to run the store.
The company plans to add fuel cells to other locations, including its store in Dedham, Mass., scheduled to open this fall. The store will generate nearly 100% of its electricity and hot water on site with an ultra-clean 400 kWh fuel cell.
“We will be avoiding half to almost all of the power needed by traditional grid sources in several locations by using fuel cells and waste-to-electricity technologies,” said Kathy Loftus, Whole Foods Market global leader of sustainable engineering, maintenance and energy management.
CHP: In another on-site power application, Whole Foods plans to generate 100% of the electricity needs of its commissary by using recycled cooking oil from the commissary kitchen and 21 of its stores in the region. (The 45,000-sq.-ft. building, in Everett, Mass., serves as the kitchen facility for the chain’s North Atlantic and Northeast Regions, supplying prepared foods and other products to some 43 stores.) The process, called waste biomass cogeneration, also referred to as waste biomass combined heat and power (CHP), is an eco-friendly alternative widely used in Europe to generate power, but is still a relatively new technology in the United States.
“The system will be connected into the commissary’s electric distribution system and operate in parallel with National Grid’s utility lines in an effort to self-generate electricity to relieve congestion on its transmission and distribution system and decrease our carbon footprint,” Loftus said.
The waste vegetable oil used for frying food that comes from the commissary and kitchen facility and from individual Whole Foods stores will be used as a biofuel in a cogeneration module using an internal combustion engine to generate electricity and usable heat to offset some of the utility costs for the facility.
The generator has the capacity to meet the electricity needs of the entire commissary, just over 2 million kWhs per year. Producing electricity with waste biomass avoids new carbon-dioxide emissions attributed to electricity generated using fossil fuels, according to Whole Foods. The vegetable-oil exhaust emissions that are produced contain virtually zero sulfur oxides and sulfates.
Lifecycle Renewables, Marblehead, Mass., which will install and operate the system, will also coordinate and manage the logistics involved with weekly waste-cooking-oil collections and fuel delivery from the stores. Whole Foods Market estimates that approximately 630 gallons of waste vegetable oil are being collected weekly and repurposed as fuel for the generator.