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Wal-Mart Opens First ‘High-Efficiency’ Store

Wal-Mart is opening its first high-efficiency store that the retailer says will use 20 percent less energy than one of its typical supercenters.

In 2005, Wal-Mart opened two experimental stores in McKinney, Texas, and Aurora, Colo., to test technologies such as wind power, pervious pavement, waterless urinals, and light-emitting diodes. The Kansas City store is the first to bring some of these experiments from the preliminary testing phase to a practical trial phase. Wal-Mart plans to open the next high-efficiency store in Rockton, Ill., this spring.

Wal-Mart has launched a site to record its sustainability efforts.

To achieve the 20 percent energy reduction at the new Kansas City High- Efficiency store, the company will target two main energy-consuming units: the heating and air conditioning system, and the refrigeration system. The new HVAC and refrigeration systems are fully integrated so that 100 percent of the heat from the refrigeration system is reclaimed into the HVAC and then converted into usable energy. By incorporating a loop-piping design, the refrigeration system also reduces the amount of installed copper and the total refrigerant charge required.

Other energy-saving technologies include ultra-efficient case fans, glass doors on medium temperature grocery cases, RollSeal quick response doors to seal air in areas such as the garden center, and a dehumidification system. The store will also have a daylight harvesting system, which uses skylights to refract daylight throughout the store and light sensors to monitor the amount of natural light available. During periods of higher natural daylight, the system then dims or turns off the store lights when they aren’t needed, thereby reducing energy-usage. It also features GE’s LED refrigerated case lighting.

This is just the latest of a plethora of environmental news from Wal-Mart in recent months. Last month, Wal-Mart distributed an RFP to solar electric suppliers that could amount to a solar installation on the order of 100 megawatts of power over the next five years.

The company is also measuring its 60,000 worldwide suppliers on their ability to develop packaging and conserve natural resources. Wal-Mart expects the project to reduce overall packaging by five percent and save 667,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

The company received a lot of attention when it set a goal of selling 100 million energy-efficient compact flourescents by 2008.

Some question the sincerity of Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts, but because of the sheer size and influence of Wal-Mart, Other retailers might move in a similiar, green direction.

Many other U.S. retailers, such as Food Lion, Staples, and Home Depot, are undertaking their own green initiatives.

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