Posting in Design
Wal-Mart's new distribution center in Alberta efficiently shuts the fridge door. Fresh or frozen, the food keeps cool with renewable energy before being flung to stores throughout western Canada.
Love it or hate it, Wal-Mart has taken strides in the last few year to sell more eco-friendly stuff, invest in thin-film solar, examine the environmental life-cycle of products, and cut its energy use. The latest of its green efforts lies in one of the largest refrigerated buildings in Canada.
Last week, the biggest of the big box stores opened a 400,000-square-foot food distribution center in Alberta. While two 30-kilowatt wind turbines generate electricity, 16 solar thermal panels provide the building with heat and hot water.
According to the company, the center will be 60 percent more energy efficient than its similar warehouses (they have 7 others in the country) and will save them $4.8 million (Canadian) in energy costs over five years.
From the center, Wal-Mart Canada sends perishable and frozen food to 104 of its western stores. Just last month, the company set goals to start buying more local produce (which they define as from the same state in the U.S.). By 2015, it hopes to have 9 percent of its produce to be grown local in the states, and at least 30 percent in Canada. As for food at the distribution center, it will have a tighter transition between the dock doors and trucks to keep the cold air in.
Wal-Mart on its 'smart refrigeration':
The facility's refrigeration system uses ammonia as a coolant rather than ozone-depleting Freon. This results in a system that is 33 per cent more energy-efficient than a traditional Freon system. Designed with a demand-response capability, the refrigeration system is also able to draw electricity during off-peak grid times. Waste heat from the system is used to keep the sub-floor frost-free in the winter.
More than 70 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will also zoom around the $115-million building, lit entirely by LEDs. The company says they hope the facility provides a positive example to their own global operations and other companies. And we've seen them do it before.
The New York Times reports:
Given that Wal-Mart is the world’s largest grocer, with one of the biggest food supply chains, any change it made would have wide implications. Wal-Mart’s decision five years ago to set sustainability goals that, among other things, increased its reliance on renewable energy and reduced packaging waste among its suppliers sent broad ripples through product manufacturers. Large companies likeredesigned packages that are now carried by other retailers, while Wal-Mart’s measurements of the environmental efficiency of its suppliers helped define how they needed to change.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Walmart's latest ambitious solar plans
- Share and share alike: non-profit launches 'data commons' for life cycle info
- Transforming juice packs into tote bags (aka trash into treasure)
- Wal-mart funds development of new greenhouse gas accounting tools
Nov 14, 2010