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Evanston Walgreens store will be country’s first net-zero retailer

Walgreens is aiming build whcompany believes will be country's first 'Net Zero' energy retail store an Evanstlocatithis year.  |

Walgreens is aiming to build what the company believes will be the country's first "Net Zero" energy retail store at an Evanston location this year. | Rendering courtesy of Walgreens

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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:28AM



A Walgreens store set to open in south Evanston later this year is aiming to become the nation’s first “net-zero” energy retail store, which company engineers predict will produce energy equal to or greater than what it consumes.

Officials at the energy-conscious company plan to bring together a number of green technologies at the new Evanston store at Chicago Avenue and Keeney Street, where demolition of an existing store is underway.

The project reads like a “Green Engineers Go Wild” script with wind turbines, geothermal technology that taps energy sources 550 feet into the earth, LED lighting and ultra-high efficiency refrigeration.

“We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and leading the retail industry in use of green technology,” said Thomas Connolly, Walgreens vice president of facilities development. “We are investing in developing a net-zero store so we can learn the best way to bring these features to our other stores. 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, scheduled to open in November, figures as Walgreens’ second showcase project in the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge.

The company has committed to a chain-wide 20 percent energy reduction by 2020.

Evanston was selected because of its progressiveness toward green buildings, said Jamie Meyers, Walgreens manager of sustainability. The Evanston site is also close to the company’s corporate office in Deerfield, allowing the company to closely monitor the project, he said.

Net zero signifies that the project will produce more energy than it uses, feeding energy back into the power grid. The concept does not mean the company won’t have to buy power from the local utility, said Menno Enters, the company’s director of energy and sustainability. Particularly at night, when there is no sun the company will rely on the local utility to supply electricity, he said.

However, “we will overproduce during the day with the solar and wind and geothermal,” he said. “So when the you look at the number of kilowatt hours our unit has consumed. It will be less the number of kilowatt-hours in aggregate that has been produced by these renewable technologies.

The cost of the store will be more expensive. It will also be different. Visitors to the store will see the wind turbines outside, and notice an electrical vehicle charger station.

Once in the store, they might see lights dimmer than usual, with daylight supplementing artificial light.

The company has set a November completion date. Officials said engineering estimates – which can vary due to factors such as weather, store operations and systems performance – indicate that the store will use 200,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity while generating 256,000 kilowatt hours.

Evanston officials, meanwhile, are thrilled the company selected their community for the prototype. The project is a marriage of two of the city’s top goals – reducing Evanston’s carbon footprint and attracting economic development.

“This planned building development reflects the City of Evanston’s ongoing commitment to the constant improvement of sustainable practices in the natural and built environment and will serve as an excellent example of how responsible development and the environment can be harmoniously combined,” said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “Green building is important to Evanston as it is good for business, good for the environment, good for our health and essential to our future. “

Once completed, Walgreens plans to seek LEED Platinum status for the store – the most stringent green designation by the U.S. Green Building Council, and plans to enter the store into the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge.

Perhaps more significant, said Meyers, the company hopes to make ‘’a bigger statement about this project being a leader and showing others it is possible to do this. You can make a difference.”



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