BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that it has opened in Kansas City, Mo., the first in a series of high-efficiency stores that will use 20 percent less energy than a typical Supercenter. The new high-efficiency stores will integrate advanced heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems to conserve energy.

"Just over a year ago, our CEO Lee Scott challenged our associates to open a store that was 25 to 30 percent more efficient by 2009," said John Menzer, vice chairman, Wal-Mart Stores. "The Kansas City High-Efficiency store is the first of its kind, and shows Wal-Mart is capable of operating stores, clubs, and distribution centers in a way that saves energy, lowers utility costs, reduces emissions, and above all, provides a better shopping experience for our customers."

In 2005, Wal-Mart opened two experimental stores in McKinney, Texas, and Aurora, Colo., to test several different environmentally friendly technologies. The aim was to experiment with innovative technologies, with the intention that they could someday be incorporated into a store prototype. The Kansas City High-Efficiency store is the first store to bring some of these experiments from the preliminary testing phase to a practical trial phase. Wal-Mart plans to open the next such store in Rockton, Ill., this spring.

"We are learning a tremendous amount from our experimental stores," said Eric Zorn, president, Wal-Mart Realty. "Wal-Mart stores are already some of the most energy-efficient in the retail industry, but we want to take efficiency even further. This new Supercenter is where we really get to put what we've learned into practice, and we're excited to reach a 20 percent energy reduction so quickly."

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 HVAC system and the refrigeration system. Specifically, the new HVAC and more efficient refrigeration systems are fully integrated so that 100 percent of the heat rejected by the refrigeration system is reclaimed into the HVAC system. The reclaimed heat is then converted into usable energy. By incorporating a loop-piping design, the advanced refrigeration system also reduces the amount of installed copper and the total refrigerant charge required.

"For years, retailers have used air-cooled equipment for air conditioning and refrigeration," said Charles Zimmerman, vice president of prototype and new format design. "In recognizing that water has four times the heat carrying capacity of air, we realized it would be much more efficient as a conductor of energy in our heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems. In this high- efficiency store, we're putting that to the test by utilizing our on-site resources to full capacity before applying secondary power sources."

Other energy-saving technologies in the store include the installation of 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 top-of-the-line 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.

The Kansas City Supercenter also features GE's energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) refrigerated case lighting. LEDs have a longer life span than fluorescent bulbs, produce less heat, and use significantly less energy than typical grocery case lighting. In the high-efficiency store, motion sensor-driven LED lights have been installed in all freezer and medium-temperature refrigerated cases. When not in use for a few seconds, the lights in these cases automatically turn off, and quickly turn back on when a customer approaches. This innovation applied from the Aurora and McKinney experimental stores is expected to add a 2 to 3 percent energy reduction, and will be rolled-out in new Wal-Mart stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam's Clubs as well.

"We're very excited to launch this high-efficiency concept in Kansas City, where our residents and local business leaders have shown that the environment is a key priority for them," said Dan Steele, Wal-Mart store manager. "Though most of the energy-saving technologies here are not visible to the public, we've added new signage to show our customers how these systems can help save money and keep our prices low."

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Publication date:01/29/2007