Walgreens Opens United States' First 'Net Zero' Power Use Store


By Sam Eifling

January 9, 2014

Pharmacy giant Walgreens unveiled late last year what it claims is the first net zero American store, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. That it took until 2013 for such a milestone might register as a disappointment, but the building could signal a greater move toward sustainable construction as it helps Walgreens move toward its own lofty conservation goals.

A Walgreens executive said in a statement that the building is the company's first to incorporate wind, solar and geothermal power generation at the same location. The 8,000 square-foot store combines almost 850 rooftop solar panels, a pair of 35-foot-tall wind turbines and geothermal energy piped from 550 feet below ground for heating and refrigeration. The company estimates the "net zero" store will generate 220,000-kilowatt hours of power each year while relying on LED lighting and daylight harvesting to consume just 200,000 hours.

It may be just one store, but in a company that operates more than 8,100 stores around the United States, and raked in some $72 billion in sales during fiscal 2013, any successes stand to enjoy meaningful replication. The Christian Science Monitor noted the chain already uses solar panels at 150 stores, and quoted its sustainability manager as saying Walgreens will be applying lessons learned at the Evanston store more broadly, to help the company reduce its overall energy use 20 percent by 2020. The store's location about a half hour's drive from the corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., will allow Walgreens engineers to scrupulously monitor its power usage during the coming year.

The new store did replace an old Walgreens location that was torn down in April. The new construction took that impact into account, recycling some 86 percent of the debris, installing a rainwater capture system and by using bricks that included recycled coal plant waste. A Chicago public television report noted that the company declined to disclose the cost of the new store.