Walmart Canada Embraces Clean Energy

With its new fresh-food distribution center in the province of Alberta, Walmart Canada didn’t nibble around the corners of being green. The company took a full bite, with hydrogen fuel cells, wind power, solar power, LED lighting, smart refrigeration and energy-efficient dock doors and doorways all on the list of ingredients.

No wonder they’re calling it a “living lab of sustainability.”

Walmart sustainable distribution center, Alberta, Canada

image via Walmart Canada

Walmart said the center, in Balzac, just north of Calgary, cost $115 million to build. Because it will use 60 percent less energy than an old-style refrigerated facility, however, it will save the company millions — $4.8 million in its first five years alone.

The 400,000-square-foot center is the equivalent of about two football fields wide and two football fields long. It’s the perishables hub for 104 Walmart stores between Manitoba in the middle of Canada and the Pacific Ocean.

The most obvious green features are two 30-kilowatt wind turbines for electricity and 16 solar thermal panels for hot water, but an equally important aspect of the facility is inside the 71 vehicles that service it: Hydrogen fuel cells have replaced traditional lead acid batteries. Walmart says this move alone will account for more than a quarter of the five-year savings it expects at Balzac.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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