Net-zero energy Walgreen store opens in Evanston


Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Signs hanging throughout the first net-zero energy Walgreens store explain how the store reduces its energy usage. The store, which was designed to produce more energy than it consumes, opened Thursday.

Danny Kelleher, Reporter

Walgreen Co. on Thursday morning opened in Evanston what it believes is the first energy-sustainable retail store in the United States.

For a store to reach net-zero energy, it has to produce more energy than it consumes from the power grid. With its new site in Evanston at 635 Chicago Ave., Walgreen plans to sell excess energy its technology creates back to Commonwealth Edison Co., the city’s electric service provider.

“This is an educational venture for us,” Walgreen spokeswoman Emily Hartwig said. “We’ve used all the different green technology individually at other Walgreens (stores), but this is the first time we’re using them all at once.”

The Evanston location utilizes roughly 850 rooftop solar panels and two wind turbines for energy generation. For energy reduction, the store has a geothermal heat pump capable of adapting to hotter climates, technology not common in the United States, according to company officials. The pump, along with LED lighting and other features, is expected to cut down the store’s consumption to 200,000 kilowatt-hours as compared to the average Chicago Walgreen store’s energy footprint of 425,000 kilowatt-hours.

“We could have tried to blanket the whole site with solar (panels),” said Jamie Meyers, Walgreen manager of sustainability. “But that’s not really a functional building. We wanted this project to function like a normal Walgreens.”

Meyers said the idea of building the store arose roughly two years ago, and company officials first sat down on Sept. 24, 2012, to plan the project.

Walgreen mechanical engineer Jason Robbins said the heat pump, which was developed in Sweden and manufactured in France by the green refrigeration system company Green & Cool, is the most exciting part of the new store. Robbins suggested the new location could be a model for other companies across the country.

“We’re hoping to share what we learn with the Department of Energy and the building industry as a whole,” Robbins said. “Most other CO2 systems in the U.S. actually have a 5 percent energy penalty, meaning they consume 5 percent more than a traditional (heating ventilation and air conditioning) system, but we’re consuming 60 percent less.”

A representative from the Environmental Protection Agency attended the opening ceremony to present Walgreen with a certificate of recognition for its green refrigeration system. Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl also spoke at the event.

“This store is a model,” Tisdahl said. “Not only for future buildings in the city of Evanston, but it’s a model for the nation. And I believe it’s a model for the world. And it’s right here in Evanston. I am so proud.”

Walgreen management expressed its hopes of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. One of Walgreen’s public commitments to sustainability is the Better Buildings Challenge, a Department of Energy initiative that urges companies to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by 2020.

“Doing projects like (the net-zero retail store) will help us toward that goal,” Meyers said. “We can learn from this project and apply it to not only new stores moving forward, but to our existing store footprint.”

The store will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

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