Click on a category on the right to read a summary of the case studies in that area
What is Green Energy?
Green energy includes solar, wind, geothermal, green biomass, low-impact hydropower, biogas, and supply-side energy efficiency. In order to define green energy, organizations such as The Eugene Standard have devised a set of criteria that energy producers need to meet before their energy can be certified as 'green'. Standards such as these help the producer promote their energy, and help the customer - including retailers who buy green energy -- be assured that the energy they purchase provides benefits to the environment.
(The Green Energy category addresses energy for electricity, heating and cogeneration for retail buildings, and do include energy used in transportation.)
Breadth of Practice
In the Greening Retail Database, retailers are either purchasing green energy produced off-site, or generating it on-site. Those who are generating green energy on-site may do it independently or in partnership with an energy company.
Green Energy Case Studies
In our Environmental Best Practices database, there are 14 case studies in which retailers are purchasing green power generated off-site and 32 are producing green energy on their properties, for a total of 46 case studies.
Of the 32 case studies of renewable energy generated on site, over half - 17 - involve photovoltaic energy. The next most common form of renewable energy in our database is wind power, with 8 cases. Two geothermal case studies are included in the Greening Retail Best Practices Database; two solar hot water cases; 2 biogas cases and 1 biomass case.
Case Studies of Retailers Producing Energy On-Site
Purchasing Green Power
Perhaps the simplest way for retailers to increase the use of green power is to buy it from green energy companies. The green energy is not delivered directly to the retailer, but the retailer purchases the equivalent of their electricity from a green energy supplier, whose energy is delivered to the grid. Retailers are purchasing green electricity to cover a portion of their energy use, up to the equivalent of 100%.
For example, REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) purchases 100% or 63,080,000 kWh of energy. The energy mix includes biogas, solar and wind, which is purchased from 9 different companies. Whole Foods Market bought more than 458,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy certificates (RECs) from wind farms, covering all of their electricity. Another retailer that buys green energy equal to all their electricity use is Patagonia.
prAna's commitment goes further than their own operations: in 2005, they launched their Natural Power Initiative to purchase green power equal to the electricity usage of not only of all of their 250 retailers and their corporate headquarters, but also the homes of all their full-time employees, equalling 29,678,000 kWh annually.
Generating Green Energy On-Site
Generating green energy on-site, may involve more effort than purchasing it from a producer; however, to make full use of the potential of n their properties, almost 70% of the retailers in our case studies are producing energy on their retail sites, in their office locations or at their warehouses.
Solar electricity is becoming a very popular on-site renewable energy for retailers, especially in sunny climates. For example, Macy's is installing solar energy systems in 26 stores in California. Also, Kohl's is working to complete the largest rooftop solar project in the United States, with installations at 63 of their 80 California locations.
At least 10 of these solar energy projects are being undertaken in partnership with an energy company, in which the solar panels are financed, owned and/or operated by a third party; for instance, Costco has made a deal with REC Solar Inc. to install 2.5 megawatts of photovoltaic on four of their warehouse locations - two in Hawaii and two in California. Whole Foods Market formed a partnership with PowerLight Corporation, Princeton Energy Systems and Nextek Power Systems in install a 33-kilowatt solar electric system to power their Berkeley store's lighting system.
At most of Macy's solar installation stores, Macy's will purchase the generated electricity from a third-party financier under the SunPower Access(TM) power purchase agreement (PPA) program. MMA Renewable Ventures, LLC, will finance, own and operate solar power systems at all stores for which PPA arrangements have been finalized. Delivering predictably-priced electricity with no upfront system cost, MMA Renewable Ventures' PPA services provide Macy's with immediate savings and a long-term insurance against rising power prices.
Another example of innovation in solar energy can be found in Wal-Mart Canada's plans to build Canada's largest rooftop solar-energy system atop a Supercentre in Markham, Ontario. Ontario's Ministry of Research and Innovation is contributing a $3-million forgivable loan to support the demonstration system. The solar system is supplied by Menova, which has created a "concentrated" solar-energy system that magnifies the sunlight by 1,000 times onto tiny solar cells, resulting in a dramatic reduction in costs and highly efficient electricity production. The heat from this intense focusing of sunlight is also captured and typically used for space and hot-water heating. In what could be called a solar hat trick, Menova is also capable of capturing the sunlight in fibre-optic cables and redirecting it inside the building.
Solar Hot Water
Solar hot water is a financially viable form of solar energy. REI Boulder is using a solar hot water system that will meet 70% of the store's hot water needs. Another innovative example of solar hot water use is at the Beach Solar Laundromat in Toronto. The Beach Solar Laundromat uses eight solar thermal panels to heat water for the Laundromat, potable water for the second floor apartment and for space heating in radiators.
Although not as common as solar energy, wind energy is also catching on with retailers. For example. ASDA has plans to introduce six wind turbines at distribution depot sites across the United Kingdom, which will reduce its carbon emissions by over 150,000 tonnes over the next 10 years. The project is expected to cost the company about £2.5m and it is expected that the turbine would pay back the £2.5m investment within eight months. Another large wind turbine project is being planned in the United Kingdom. B&Q's plans to build a 2-megawatt wind turbine in Nottinghamshire has received support. Ecotricity is the developer behind the project.
Geothermal, is another realistic option for retailers in obtaining energy for heating and cooling. At a new IKEA store in Karlstad, Sweden, geothermal heat provides 85% of the location's heating needs and 75% of the air conditioning requirements. Plans are to build similar systems in other IKEA locations. As well, at Mountain Equipment Coop's Montreal store, a geothermal system consumes about 65 per cent less energy than a typical large-scale retail outlet, generating an annual savings of $100,000, according to energy-modeling software.
One energy source less common to retailers is biogas produced from waste through anaerobic digestion. For example, Marks & Spencer has signed agreements to buy energy from anaerobic digestion plants. One of the biogas plants generates energy from household wastes; another mainly from agricultural waste and cow manure. Waitrose said wasted items from five of its stores can be used at a special anaerobic digestion plant in Bedford owned by Biogen - it is transported there by recycler Cawleys. The biogas is pumped into the national grid and can be used by about 500 homes.
So far, one instance of biomass energy produced by a retailer has been identified for the Greening Retail Best Practices Database. Tesco is to build Britain's first straw-powered combined heat and power plant to provide electricity and heating at its Distribution Centre in Goole, Yorkshire. The £12m plant will generate five megawatts of electrical power - enough energy to run eight Tesco Superstores. All excess electricity will be sold back to the grid. Tesco estimates that it will have recouped the £12m set-up cost within six years.
Combined Heat and Power
The Waitrose supermarket in Rickmansworth is being supplied by Green Energy UK. The electricity is a by-product from tomato farms in Chichester and Stansted - both Waitrose suppliers. Combined heat and power units are used on the farms, producing carbon dioxide to feed tomatoes. The units generate heat as a by-product, which is used both to warm the greenhouses and to drive a turbine, creating electricity. It will meet all of the Rickmansworth store's electricity needs. This surplus energy also helps the farms generate additional income.
This synopsis was compiled from case studies in the Greening Retail Best Practice Database. Sources for the information in the case studies are cited in the database.
This database contains links to case studies of environmental best practice from retailers around the world. You can search this database by the name of the company only, or you can find case studies that match one or several specific criteria, such as the type of retailer, the type of best practice, the company's country of origin, and/or project return on investment.
Simply select your search criteria in the spaces provided and hit the "search" button to come up with a list of the kinds of case studies you're looking for.
Please note that we cannot include all the practices of every retailer; therefore, the non-inclusion of a company, or of a certain area of practice for a company, does not mean that they do not presently have progressive environmental initiatives in these areas.
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