Wal-Mart Canada Opens its First Sustainable Distribution Center
Wal-Mart Canada has opened its first sustainable fresh food distribution center that will be an estimated 60 percent more energy-efficient than the company’s traditional refrigerated centers. The retailer expects a savings of approximately $4.8 million in energy costs over five years.
Wal-Mart Canada has invested $115 million to build the 400,000 square foot center, which is one of Canada’s largest refrigerated buildings. The Balzac facility includes the company’s first pilot programs for hydrogen fuel cells, solar thermal and wind power.
The hydrogen fuel cells replace traditional lead acid batteries in the facility’s entire fleet of 71 material handling vehicles. The program is expected to reduce C02 emissions from the vehicle fleet by 55 percent or an estimated 530 tonnes annually. Their use will also improve productivity and result in a cost-avoidance of an estimated $1.3 million over five years, says Wal-Mart.
The distribution center also features two 30-kilowatt wind turbines on the facility’s grounds that will generate about 100,000 kWh per year each. Sixteen solar thermal panels on the facility will provide energy to heat domestic hot water for use in offices and maintenance areas. The solar array will produce a peak of over 205 kilowatt hours per day.
Other sustainable features include LED lighting, smart refrigeration and high-efficiency dock doors and doorways.
The warehouse and parking lot is lit exclusively by low-energy solid-state (LED) lighting. LED lights are an estimated 69 percent more energy-efficient than incandescents; produce significantly less waste heat; strike instantly, and can last an estimated 20 years, says Wal-Mart.
The LED lighting will save the company an estimated seven million kilowatt hours of electricity over five years and $645,000 in costs over the same period.
Wal-Mart says the facility’s refrigeration system uses ammonia as a coolant rather than ozone-depleting Freon, which is 33 percent more energy efficient than a traditional Freon system. It is expected to avoid an estimated $2 million in costs over five years.
Designed with a demand-response capability, the refrigeration system is also able to draw electricity during off-peak grid times, and waste heat from the system is used to keep the sub-floor frost-free in the winter.
The distribution center’s dock doors and doorways between temperature zones have been custom-designed to be more energy-efficient. Gaps between transportation vehicles and the dock doors have been lessened to reduce the loss of refrigerated air. The center also eliminates windows found in traditional dock doors and includes insulation in levelers, further reducing energy loss.
Other energy-efficient features include electronic monitoring that ensures that dock doors are not left open unnecessarily, and automatic doorways between temperature zones to minimize energy loss in refrigerated areas.
Wal-Mart Canada has invested $220 million over the past two years to update and expand its distribution network: four sites in Calgary, Alberta, including Balzac; one site in Cornwall, Ontario, and three sites in Mississauga.
The company also has instituted no idling policies at all its stores and distribution centers, improved fill rates on trucks and increased use of long-combination vehicles.
The retailer also launched a Web site, ShareGreen.ca, earlier this year, which includes case studies of sustainability practices at firms such as Heinz, PepsiCo, HP, Home Depot, Canon and others. The latest progress reports were published at the site in August.
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