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OM in the News: Walgreen’s “Net Zero Energy” Stores

June 8, 2013
Roof of new Walgreen store in Evanston, IL contains 800 solar panels

Roof of new Walgreen store in Evanston, IL contains 800 solar panels

As the Walgreen Company expands its sales items to fresh salads, Redbox DVD rentals and digital photo scanners, among other products, its consumption of power keeps inching up. While the drugstore chain cannot significantly reduce its electricity use in all stores immediately, it is building its first “net zero energy” store in Evanston, IL, that it hopes will produce more energy than it consumes. Alternative energy equipment at the store includes more than 800 solar panels on the roof, two 35-foot wind turbines and a geothermal energy system dug hundreds of feet beneath the store’s foundation.

The net zero concept is part of the retail giant’s overall sustainability plan to reduce energy use by 20% by 2020 across all of its more than 8,000 stores, reports The New York Times (June 5, 2013). The cost of building the new store will be about twice that of a typical new store. Over time, however, executives expect to recoup the extra costs from reductions in the store’s energy use, tax credits and rebates from utility companies.

Walgreen is also incorporating several conservation and energy producing strategies in existing stores, including LED lighting, energy-efficient building materials and carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration.

The new store, on the site of an old store that had been razed, is being built by recycling more than 85% of the demolished store’s material like bricks, concrete and metal. In addition, Walgreen has drilled eight 550-foot holes for pipes — about as deep as the landmark Chicago Board of Trade building is tall — to create a geothermal energy system that will use the constant temperature of earth to heat and cool the building.

Discussion questions:

1. Why is Walgreen developing the “net zero energy” store?

2. What is the chain’s sustainability strategy?

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