Walgreens opens net-zero energy retail store

Sporting two wind turbines, nearly 850 solar panels and a geothermal system burrowed 550 ft. into the ground, Walgreens celebrated the official opening of what the retailer believes to be the nation’s first net-zero energy retail store, anticipated to produce energy equal to or greater than it consumes.

“As we celebrate the grand opening, we begin a one-year effort to operate a retail store that will generate more energy than it consumes," said Mark Wagner, Walgreens president of operations and community management. "Using the best technologies available, we believe we can accomplish our goal of having the first net zero energy retail store in America,” he said. “Currently, we have facilities that utilize wind turbines, solar installations and geothermal technologies. This is the first time we are bringing all three of these technologies, and many more, together in one place. Our purpose as a company is to help people get, stay and live well, and that includes making our planet more livable by conserving resources and reducing pollution.”

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said, “I am proud that an Illinois-based corporation like Walgreens is taking the lead in the use of green technology, which will be a model for all retail operations across the country. The best energy sources are free, renewable and have little environmental impact — and that’s exactly what Walgreens is doing in Evanston.”

Walgreens plans to generate electricity and reduce its energy usage in the store by more than 50% through several technologies, including:

  • Nearly 850 rooftop solar panels, generating enough energy to power 30 Illinois homes for a year;
  • Two 35-ft.-tall wind turbines, using Lake Michigan breezes to generate enough power to offset annual greenhouse gas emissions from 2.2 passenger vehicles;
  • 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 such factors as weather, store operations and systems performance — indicate that the store will use 200,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity, while generating 220,000 kilowatt hours per year.

“We are investing in a net-zero energy store so we can bring what we learn to our other stores and share what we learn with other companies," said Thomas Connolly, Walgreens VP facilities development. "Because we operate more than 8,000 stores, anything we do that reduces our carbon footprint can have a broad, positive impact on the nation’s environment.”

The store is seeking platinum certification through the U.S. Green Building Council LEED program, Net Zero Certification through the Living Building Challenge and has received GreenChill platinum certification through the U.S. EPA. GreenChill’s Store Certification Program was designed for supermarkets. This is the first time a GreenChill certification is being awarded to a small-format store, such as a convenience store or pharmacy.

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; 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.

The Evanston location also showcases the new Walgreens “Well Experience” store format with features that include an enhanced, state-of-the-art pharmacy designed to encourage greater interaction between pharmacists and patients.