Walgreens taps geothermal energy to power new store in Chicago suburb

DEERFIELD, Ill. In another step toward energy independence and sustainability, Walgreens unveiled what it said is the nation’s first chain drug store to draw on geothermal energy for heating and cooling.

The new store, located in a renovated historic building in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill., will harness the earth’s heat to cut its energy usage by roughly 46%, according to company projections. Walgreens partnered with Evanston, Ill.-based Indie Energy, which specializes in designing and installing geothermal systems, to construct a store that conforms to new Village of Oak Park mandates that require any retailer opening a new outlet within its borders to investigate geothermal energy.

Using a “Smart Geothermal” technology system developed by Indie Energy, the new Walgreens will draw power from a network of four closed-loop boreholes installed to depths of 650 ft., and a heat exchange system within the building that is controlled by Indie’s EnergyLoop 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 system monitors and optimizes this exchange in real time to provide the maximum energy efficiency,” according to Walgreens spokeswoman Vivika Vergara.

“We are always looking for new and creative ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Tom Connolly, Walgreens VP facilities development. “This is the most innovative and sustainable Walgreens yet, and we are proud to showcase our commitment to the environment here in Oak Park.”

An informational kiosk at the store will show customers the rate of energy usage and savings from the geothermal system in real time, Walgreens reported. Besides cutting down on the store’s carbon footprint, Vergara noted, “this sustainable energy alternative ... 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.”

Added Connolly, “This type of system can work anywhere, but makes a lot of sense here in the Midwest. 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.”

The store also was built with other green features, including:

  • Adimming system for sales floor lighting when natural sunlight is able to brighten most of the sales floor;
  • Polished concrete floors made from recycled content, which “eliminates use of vinyl flooring and will save on maintenance,” according to Vergara;
  • LED lights throughout the store in coolers and in ceiling accent lighting; and
  • Lavatory sinks made entirely from recycled content and hand dryers powered by lights within the lavatory.

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

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