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Walgreens plans to build a facility that makes more energy than it needs

Walgreens is a pharmacy chain within the United States that seems to have several stores in just about every modestly sized city. Like many large corporations, the company is working hard to reduce the amount of energy that its locations consume. Part of this push is to gain itself some green credibility and another part of the push is to help reduce the amount of money the company spends on electricity.

Walgreens has announced that it will use a number of green technologies to construct a zero energy retail store. The company believes that the location will be the first net zero energy store within the United States.
“We are investing in developing a net-zero store so we can learn the best way to bring these features to our other stores,” said Thomas Connolly, Walgreens vice president of facilities development, in an interview with Energy Manager Today.
The company will rely on large solar panel arrays, geothermal energy, wind turbines, and LED lighting. Individually, these technologies have all been around for a number of years.

For instance, Philips offers its Hue LED light bulb for anyone who wants to try out green lighting. The good part about Hue LED light bulb and a myriad of other brands that are available on the market is that not only do they consume significantly less energy than a traditional incandescent light bulb, but many of them also allow you to tune the color of the light to your preference.

LED bulbs also last much longer than a traditional incandescent bulbs and produce less heat. In a large retail environment with a huge number of bulbs there is a potential to significantly reduce the energy needed to cool a location thanks to less heat output from an LED bulb.
Solar panels will play a big part in the zero energy building Walgreens is constructing. The concept drawings of the facility show the entire roofing surface covered with solar panels. It's unclear what sort of solar panels Walgreens will use, but they will undoubtedly be among the most efficient available on the market.

Geothermal electricity production is also nothing new. Back in 2009 researchers at MIT developed a new process that they believe can provide 10% of the electricity needed in America by 2050. Geothermal energy, much like solar power, produces little or no pollution and doesn't require fossil fuels to produce electricity.

Walgreens plans to build its zero energy location in Evanston, Illinois. The building will be constructed at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Keeney Street. There is an existing Walgreens location at that address that is now being demolished to clear the way for one of the greenest retail buildings in the country.

Walgreens estimates that the store will require 200,000 kWh of electricity per year and will generate 256,000 kWh of energy each year. Energy production from the store will of course vary depending on weather, store operations, and the system performance.

Sources: Inhabitat, Forbes, Facebook

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light efficiency
By daboom06 on 3/12/2013 10:05:50 AM , Rating: 2
who's comparing lighting efficiency to incandescent bulbs anymore? the led bulbs are better than CFLs. it's not as big of an improvement, but those are the technologies that leds are aimed at surpassing.

RE: light efficiency
By DanNeely on 3/12/2013 10:37:35 AM , Rating: 2
It's all about marketing. Comparing to CFLS would be something like 10% more efficient for 10x the cost and would only break even if the LED bulb last 10 times as long as it will.

At current prices they only make economic sense vs CFLs if your power is exceptionally expensive (ex a cabin run from solar+batteries or a generator), disruption from bulb failure outages (ex traffic lights), or replacement is difficult/expensive/dangerous (commercial buildings or cathedral ceilings where a ladder is needed to access the fixture).

RE: light efficiency
By Sivar on 3/12/2013 11:02:40 AM , Rating: 2
The main benefit of LEDs over CFLs is that LED lights last much, much longer in many real-world situations (though Walgreens lighting is not one of them).

CFLs hate being power cycled and, in hall lights and similar uses, often last no longer than much cheaper incandescents.

LEDs can be power cycled many times per second and not care.

Other benefits include better cold weather performance, less sensitivity to heat, and real dimmability. Downsides include much higher cost, lower light output per unit of cubic bulb area (for now).

RE: light efficiency
By theapparition on 3/12/2013 12:00:46 PM , Rating: 2

CFLs are horrible at power cycling. I haven't bought a new incandescent bulb in years, yet I was constantly replacing the ones in the bathrooms. Heck, I still had some incandescent bulbs in there while the CFLs had gone through several iterations of bulbs.

Got tired of CFLs and now LEDs run most everywhere practical now. Won't buy another CFL.

RE: light efficiency
By talikarni on 3/12/2013 4:15:51 PM , Rating: 2
CFLs are horrible at power cycling.

That is the main issue and why the gov't is trying to outlaw standard bulbs.
Standard 10-40 cents per bulb versus $3 per CFL
Standards can last years whether its on constantly or only on 2 minutes per day versus the CFL only lasts long if it is in a fixture that is on for long periods of time (more than an hour at a time).

This is why my house has a mixture. The rooms that tend to have lights on for longer periods use CFL (living room, garage, kitchen, office), the rest have standard bulbs (bathrooms, closets, storage areas, hallway). I also use CFLs outside since it rarely gets cold enough here to mess with the lighting (north Florida).

The main thing holding back adoption of even CFLs on a large scale are its limits, the short life in high power cycling rooms, temperature aversion, even cost. The average person would still rather buy a 4 pack for $1 (Standards) than a 3 pack for $6 (CFL). If they won't spend an extra $2-3 per bulb, then LEDs at minimum $10 each is no bueno.

RE: light efficiency
By JediJeb on 3/13/2013 11:57:36 AM , Rating: 2
I use CFL outside on my porch lights but during the winter I just leave them on all the time, otherwise it takes ten minutes for them to even light up completely. Even then running all day they use less energy than a regular bulb running only at night.

Inside I have had to revert to regular bulbs or LEDs because most of the lighting fixtures are inclosed and CFLs really don't last long inside one of those. Trouble I am having is finding open fixtures that both look good and don't cost a fortune. I am slowly replacing the inclosed fixtures where I can, because even the LEDs prefer the open ones, just not as sensitive as the CFLs.

RE: light efficiency
By Akrovah on 3/12/2013 6:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
CFLs are horrible at power cycling

That explains the issues I've been havign with them, having to replace so called "long lasting" CFLs mroe often then I did the incandescents.

Didn't know about the cycling burnout. Guess it really is time for me to start migrating to LEDs.

RE: light efficiency
By Solandri on 3/12/2013 3:16:47 PM , Rating: 2
The main benefit of LEDs over CFLs is that LED lights last much, much longer in many real-world situations (though Walgreens lighting is not one of them).

This. And I disagree that Walgreens is not one of them.

When you start to get to large buildings and warehouses with high roofs, the labor cost to change burned-out bulbs is frequently a bigger factor than the cost of the electricity they use.

RE: light efficiency
By Souka on 3/12/2013 3:49:40 PM , Rating: 2
Did I miss it in the article...

How much more will the zero-energy option cost? how many years to earn back the expense? Lifespan of the design?

It's nice to be "zero-energy" but business must be profitable to survive and adding green-costs can hurt a business.

RE: light efficiency
By Dorkyman on 3/12/2013 11:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
Walgreens is not doing this to "save money." They are doing this either because the regional manager is a liberal wuss who feels a need to "save the planet," or because Walgreens senior management feels the need to kiss up to the tree huggers.

RE: light efficiency
By MadMan007 on 3/13/2013 6:09:27 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe you need to read the article. If the numbers are accurate, the store can generate more electricity than it uses and sell it back to the utilities, actually generating a positive return.

But yeah, it's cool for you to bash a business as tree-hugging hippies, and pretend like there's no business case for it.

no way
By Shadowmaster625 on 3/12/2013 10:51:04 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe for 2 months out of the year the buildign will be green. But old man winter is going to laugh his ass off at those solar panels. And they wont be enough during the dog days either. And basically any time it is raining. So yeah that leaves about one month per year where those panels are actually running above 5% efficiency.

RE: no way
By Uhlatek on 3/12/2013 11:55:55 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe for 2 months out of the year

Actually that is not correct.

Solar panels react to the radiation from the sun not the heat, and a cloudy day with fluffy cumulus clouds can actually increase the power from solar panels above that of a clear summers day by reflecting the radiation back to panels a number of times.

And they wont be enough during the dog days either.

I would like to see some actual numbers to prove this point. Otherwise just another obviously biased opinion.

RE: no way
By theapparition on 3/12/2013 12:13:55 PM , Rating: 2
Solar panels react to the radiation from the sun not the heat


and a cloudy day with fluffy cumulus clouds can actually increase the power from solar panels above that of a clear summers day by reflecting the radiation back to panels a number of times.

So incorrect, it's not even funny.

Stand outside on a sunny day and a cloudy day, and then tell me which day do you feel like you've absorbed more energy? I could go into this much deeper on a technical level, but the simplistic common sense approach is obvious.

I also have solar panels on our main home and can unequivocally tell you that they make less power when it's cloudy. Full sun their production spikes through the roof (no pun intended). Furthermore, winter tends to have:
1. Shorter periods of light
2. Cloudier/hazy weather more often.

The OP is somewhat correct. Winter will be a challenge. Also, snow covering the panel is a sure way to generate no electricity at all. Illinois isn't the most ideal location for solar. Now, there's no reason that the right setup can't still work in winter, but it is more difficult to predict.

Finally, and the most important aspect, what happens at night with no light? No doubt they are talking about a back-generation system with net result of close to zero. They'll still be hooked to the grid. From my own experience, Walgreen's will have an overproduction in the summer and underproduction in the winter. If they size it right and use energy saving LEDs, then it's not that hard to have a yearly net zero or even slightly positive energy generation.

But you still have to be hooked to a grid and have the square area required for a large solar array. For now, solar continues to be a supplemental source of energy, not a viable singular path.

RE: no way
By Solandri on 3/12/2013 3:27:05 PM , Rating: 2
The OP is somewhat correct. Winter will be a challenge. Also, snow covering the panel is a sure way to generate no electricity at all. Illinois isn't the most ideal location for solar. Now, there's no reason that the right setup can't still work in winter, but it is more difficult to predict.

If you visit a Costco or Walmart warehouse store, you'll see they solved this problem a slightly different and more sensible way. Instead of collecting solar energy via PV panels, converting it to electricity at 16% efficiency, which then powers light bulbs which convert 1%-10% of that electricity to light, they just cut straight to the chase.

They installed skylights that let in 100% of the sunlight which hits them. During they day they don't have to turn on as many lights. During night they turn on the extra lights.

Indoor lighting doesn't have to be as bright as sunlight, so the skylights are a small portion of the roof area. Meaning there's still plenty of room for solar panels if they want. But they're not doing the pointless light -> electricity -> light conversion.

RE: no way
By Akrovah on 3/12/2013 6:40:19 PM , Rating: 2
I've found those stores slightely disconcerting to shop in, as a cloud moving by dims the light in the store. Same effect as a cloud has when you are outside but having the same effect indoors just wigged me a little bit at first for some reason.

Got used to it of course, but it was still errie.

RE: no way
By extide on 3/12/2013 2:15:36 PM , Rating: 2
It's all about the yearly cumulative total. There will be days it is in the negative, and days it is in the positive. Their estimation is there will be enough time in the positive to cancel out the time in the negative.

RE: no way
By stimudent on 3/13/2013 1:25:18 AM , Rating: 2
The natural gas and oil companies industries will quietly put an end to this anyway.

Too much negativity
By backbydemand on 3/12/2013 1:00:54 PM , Rating: 3
There are far too many negative posts on this:-
"This is not new, other people have dome it first"
"Winter sun will not generate much electricity"
"LED lights are expensive"

OK then, let's not bother then shall we? Seeing as it will take about 15 to 20 years to make back the cost of installation, let's just ignore the environment and keep burning coal and oil.

This is not a race, someone will always be in front of you but at least they are putting in the effort. OK Wnter sun may not generate much electricity, but the idea is to have the panels up all year round, you may get low amounts in winter but you will get lots in summer, it all gets fed into the power grid and the average over the year is an acceptable reduction in CO2 and your electricity usage. LEDs are not as expensive as they used to be and I have kitted out my entire house with them. They will pay for themselves in less than 18 months.

Seriously a lot of you need to get a grip, they are spending a lot of money and doing something that will help the environment, it will only turn any serious profit for them after decades of use - and you find interesting ways to piss all over what they do - applaude the effort, if you must moan at someone try directing it at the companies that have no intention of displaying any green credentials

RE: Too much negativity
By augiem on 3/12/2013 2:48:06 PM , Rating: 2
One major benefit of having net-positive stores, which this design seems to be rather than net-zero, is that you essentially start to decentralize energy production. Fast forward to the future where the majority of retail space is net-positive and you suddenly have a very different looking grid which may be less susceptible to certain problems like terrorism, mechanical failure, etc. Of course there are other disadvantages to a decentralized system such as maintenance requirements over a huge geographical area, the inability to ramp-up production as demand rises, etc. There will probably always be a need for a power plants.

There has also been talk of using plug-in hybrids as part of the grid in an energy storage network. Ideas like this could work together with the net-positive retail space to address problems like solar over/under production depending on weather, etc. Anyway, moves like this have the potential to change the future of energy in interesting ways.

RE: Too much negativity
By theapparition on 3/12/2013 2:57:46 PM , Rating: 2
Often times, "green" isn't quite as green as you think it is. And that's why many don't agree with taking drastic action. Sometimes going green is actually more harmful to the environment.

Years ago, Greenpeace fought tooth and nail, everything they had, to rally against Nuclear power and advocating for coal as an alternative. They've since reluctantly reversed their stance, now that evil CO2 is the culprit.

Making solar cells isn't too green. A lot of energy is consumed in their manufacture, plus a lot of hazardous waste is generated. But you never see this so you think it's OK. Out of sight, out of mind.

CFLs, cost more in energy to produce than incandescent bulbs. Plus they have a hazardous material component that will certainly be an issue later. I can only imagine the phosphorus in the drinking water stories we'll see later.

LEDs are certainly the way to go, but you can't force it and they aren't the best solution for all implementations. But point is, a lot of the "green" tech isn't too green right now. Some is actually less green than the current alternatives, just it's behind the scenes so people don't consider it. We need to be smart about improving efficiency, not force it and let the market evolve naturally. If a new tech makes sense, then it will be rapidly adopted.

By kattanna on 3/12/2013 10:33:20 AM , Rating: 2
i seriously doubt they are going to be trying to create electricity via geothermal, but instead using it for heating and cooling, which when done properly will dramatically cut electricity usage over current methods

RE: geothermal
By theapparition on 3/12/2013 12:16:28 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed with this as well. Geothermal heat pumps are the most efficient heating/cooling solution available now.

Someone saw geothermal and jumped to conclusions.

RE: geothermal
By rbsurrey on 3/12/2013 12:21:42 PM , Rating: 2
Walgreen is just catching up to tend-setters, TD Bank opened up net zero stores in Fort Lauderdale and London, Ontario last year. They are also largest USA bank which is carbon neutral. Very environmentally friendly.

By DanNeely on 3/12/2013 10:03:40 AM , Rating: 2
Illinois seems an odd spot for a flat solar roof. In the winter the low sun angle will heavily cut down on power output even when it's not covered by snow. It's a reasonable option in the south; but up north if you're doing solar the southern side of a roof sloped to shed snow would work a lot better.

You are all looking at this wrong
By Denigrate on 3/12/2013 3:39:29 PM , Rating: 2
You should be hoping they build a similar store close to your home. That way when Z-Day arrives, you'll have a self sufficient base with a load of supplies. Only challenge will be to prep properly with a good team that can shoot all the uninfected who try to get into your safe haven.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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