Walgreens Plans First Net-Zero Retail Store In U.S.

The Walgreens drug store chain opens new branches with numbing regularity in just about every major metropolitan area in the country. Recently, though, it turned a few heads by announcing plans to build what may become the first net-zero-energy retail store in the United States.

According to the architect behind the design of the store, the building will use solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal energy, which should produce more power that the facility is likely to consume. Walgreens also plans to reduce its energy usage as well, via the installation of LED lighting and ultra-high-efficiency refrigeration systems.

The planned Walgreens store is expected to generate more power than it needs by using solar, wind and geothermal energy. Image via BusinessWire.

The planned Walgreens store is expected to generate more power than it needs by using solar, wind and geothermal energy. Image via BusinessWire.

“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 a press release. “Because we operate 8,000 stores, we believe our pursuit of green technology can have a significant, positive impact on the nation’s environment.”

The store will be located in Evanston, Ill., where an older Walgreens store is now being demolished to make way for the new design. The Chicago-area location is also near the company’s headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., so researchers there can measure the store’s performance closely for an entire year.

Walgreens plans to generate electricity and reduce energy use usage by more than 40 percent through several technologies, including:  two wind turbines, more than 800 rooftop solar panels, and geothermal energy from a 550-foot-deep well that helps regulate extreme temperatures. Other techniques that will be used to enhance the savings include the use of natural daylight instead of artificial lighting whenever possible, and carbon dioxide-based refrigerant,

Engineers at Walgreens estimates that the completed Evanston store will use just 200,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity, yet it will generating about 256,000 kilowatt hours per year.

Walgreens said it hopes to achieve LEED Platinum status and is planning on entering the store into the even tougher Living Building Challenge standards. The store will be Walgreens second showcase project in the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, under which Walgreens has committed to 20 percent energy reduction by 2020 for all of its stores.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.