This year saw lots of major corporations dabbling in renewable energy. While many put up solar panels or found ways to harness the wind, few retailers were brave enough to tap into the vast amount of energy that lies below the earth’s surface.
Late last month, a Walgreens location in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill., became the first national drug store retailer to utilize geothermal energy for heating and cooling. In doing so, the pharmacy chain joined the ranks of energy-conscious retailers like Ikea and Sainsbury’s.
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.
“We are always looking for new and creative ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Walgreens vice president of facilities development Tom Connolly. “After considering the use of geothermal, we have now made it a reality.”
How Does It Work?
1. The 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 technology.
2. A water-based heat transfer liquid exchanges heating and cooling energy with the earth, which provides a constant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. 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 system monitors and optimizes this exchange in real-time to provide the maximum energy efficiency.
Not only does this sustainable energy alternative reduce the store’s carbon footprint, it also cuts down on heating and cooling costs. The energy saved at this location alone is equivalent to removing nine cars from the road or planting 43 acres of trees.
Although geothermal systems are costly to install, and might not be appropriate for all geological regions, interest in their advantages over other forms of renewable energy is growing.
Image Credit: Flickr - ttarasiuk