Walgreens Opens First Net Zero Retail Store in U.S.

Summer 2014
The first net zero energy retail store in the nation, this Walgreens in suburban Chicago gets its power from two 35-foot-tall wind turbines, nearly 850 rooftop solar panels and a geothermal system.

While many retailers have embraced green initiatives and made their stores more energy efficient, Walgreens has taken the process one step further. The nation’s largest drugstore chain opened its first net zero energy retail store — defined as one that produces energy equal to or greater than the amount it consumes from the power grid — in Evanston, Illinois, last November.

The freestanding, 14,000-square-foot store harnesses power from two 35-foot-tall wind turbines, nearly 850 rooftop solar panels and a geothermal system burrowed 550 feet into the ground. It is expected to use 200,000 kilowatt hours per year (compared to an average Chicago-area Walgreens, which uses about 425,000 kilowatt hours) while generating 220,000 kilowatt hours per year. The store also features LED lighting and daylight harvesting and uses carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment, with an energy-efficient heat pump developed in Sweden and manufactured in France.

interior view of Walgreens

Ample daylight and LED fixtures help reduce the store’s energy consumption to less than half that of a comparable Chicago-area Walgreens store. Photos courtesy of Walgreens

Walgreens operates two LEED Gold certified stores, 150 stores that use solar power and 400 locations with electric vehicle charging stations. It also operates a Texas distribution center that generates wind power. But the Evanston store is the first that incorporates wind turbines, solar installations and geothermal technologies. The store is seeking LEED Platinum certification from the USGBC and has received GreenChill Platinum certification through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (GreenChill is a certification program designed for supermarkets; this is the first time it has been awarded to a smaller format store.)

Walgreens sells its excess energy back to Commonwealth Edison Co., the city’s electric service provider.  While the chain currently has no plans to build additional net zero stores, it is working on additional initiatives to further reduce its carbon footprint on a chainwide basis, and is committed to using technologies that prove useful and effective.