Walgreens Installs First Geothermal System

Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) announced the opening of a store in suburban Chicago that uses geothermal heating and cooling. The drugstore chain said it is the first in the industry to use the technology in a retail store.

The location, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill., is expected to reduce its energy usage by about 46% as a result of the geothermal system.

Last year, The Village of Oak Park passed an ordinance requiring any retailer that wants to build a commercial property within its village limits to investigate geothermal energy.

Walgreens worked on its Oak Park location with Evanston, Ill.-based Indie Energy, which specializes in designing and installing geothermal systems.

"This store provides online, real-time proof of carbon and cost savings, making it a leading example of sustainability," said Indie Energy CEO Daniel Cheifetz.

The Oak Park Walgreens geothermal system harnesses the earth’s heat utilizing a network of four closed-loop boreholes installed to depths of 650 feet, and a heat exchange system with the building that is controlled by Indie Energy EnergyLoop(TM) technology. A water-based heat transfer liquid exchanges heating and cooling energy with the earth, which provides a constant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the store, the geothermal heat pump and refrigeration systems pull heating energy from the fluid, or reject heat to the fluid to cool. The EnergyLoop(TM) system monitors and optimizes this exchange in real-time to provide the maximum energy efficiency.

"This type of system can work anywhere, but makes a lot of sense here in the Midwest," said Walgreens vice president of facilities development Tom Connolly. "The ability to heat to room-temperature from 55 degrees, rather than from 10 degrees or cool it from 98 degrees will save a lot of energy."

An informational kiosk at the store will show customers energy usage and savings from the geothermal system in real-time. The store was also built with other green features. It uses a dimming system for sales floor lighting when natural sunlight is able to brighten most of the sales floor. Polished concrete floors made from recycled content eliminates use of vinyl flooring and will save on maintenance. LED lights are used throughout the store in coolers and in ceiling accent lighting. Lavatory sinks are made entirely from recycled content, and hand dryers are heated by lights within the lavatory.

Home furnishings retailer IKEA installed a large geothermal system this year at its new Denver location.

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