Some of the biggest savings come from reclaiming so-called waste heat from the refrigeration equipment that keeps groceries cold. The stores also have a new system for keeping refrigerated food cold that lowers the use of refrigerant by 90 percent and in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Other whistles and bells include motion-sensitive light-emitting diodes (LED) in refrigerator and freezer cases that turn on only when a shopper walks by, doors in the meat and dairy refrigerated sections instead of open refrigerator shelves, a white roof that keeps the building cool in summer and roughly 200 skylights that allow electric lights to go down when the sun comes out.
In all, this design is supposed to save 25 per cent on a store’s energy consumption.
Wal-Mart may be the single company with the most invested in the existing — dying — system of acquiring, moving and selling merchandise. It sources things manufactured inexpensively abroad, hauls them enormous distances, sells them in very large stores often located in box-store complexes pretty far removed from residential areas. Expensive energy, in any form, hits Wal-Mart hard. So naturally the company has the most incentive to cut waste as much as possible as quickly as possible.
Whether the business model is sustainable with $100-a-barrel oil, even in heavily modified form, we’ll have to see.