MEDINA, Minn. — Two prominent grocery chains in the Upper Midwest are reducing their energy use and cutting energy cost by retro-commissioning their stores. The chains have done so with the help of SINGH360, a service provider that specializes in working with grocery chains.

The retro-commissioning process identifies opportunities to improve energy efficiency for stores that have been in operation for several years. The process is valuable because such stores tend to become less energy efficient with time, said Abtar Singh, president of SINGH360.

Strack and Van Til, a 37-store chain in Indiana and Illinois, recently hired SINGH360 to retro-commission 16 locations. As part of that process, Strack and Van Til upgraded system controllers to the latest software version. The company put the energy management system (EMS) for each store on a network so that they can be checked and managed remotely. The grocery chain also implemented a system to control store lighting on an energy management system.

“In the last four months we’ve seen savings of 8 percent to 12 percent on average,” said Don Erminger, director of energy and maintenance. “Before the project, we expected a payback of two years. But after our first four months, we now think we’ll achieve full payback in 12 to 14 months. That’s twice as fast as we first projected, thanks to opportunities SINGH360 identified.”

Coborn’s, a 54-store chain headquartered in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and operating in six states across the Midwest, recently retro-commissioned its first store. In addition to reducing energy costs and improving environmental sustainability, the company also benefited from addressing a number of maintenance issues, said Chris Braun, refrigeration project manager.

With the opportunities SINGH360 identified, plus a 75 percent utility incentive from Dakota Electric, the company expects payback in less than six months, Braun said. The project also identified added capital projects that could cut the company’s energy use by 20 percent to 25 percent during retro-commissioning, he said.

Utility incentives such as the above often make retro-commissioning even more attractive.

Xcel Energy, an electric and natural gas utility that serves customers in eight states, provides incentives to its customers. “Recommissioning can be a good way for supermarkets to save energy,” said Renae Wrich, Xcel Energy recommissioning program manager in Minnesota. “As an incentive for supermarkets to take action, we offer rebates to subsidize the cost of identifying and implementing energy-saving HVAC and refrigeration projects,” she said. Xcel offers recommissioning rebates in Colorado and Minnesota.

SINGH360’s retro-commissioning process is especially tailored to the needs of supermarkets, said Singh.

“We always involve a three-person team. They include a commissioning engineer, a refrigeration technician, and an electrician. They use a mobile app we developed to make the process thorough and consistent.”

Each store takes about three weeks to recommission, Singh said. “First we dial in remotely to analyze the store’s energy management system (EMS). We prepare a game plan. Then our team spends a week in the store diagnosing and fixing problems. While we’re on-site, we also fine-tune the EMS.

“Then we further adjust the EMS remotely and monitor its performance to verify the changes are producing their intended effects,” said Singh.

“We create an issue list so the store owner can hire a refrigeration contractor to fix any problems that go beyond the solutions we provide. We also identify additional energy projects and initiatives that can further reduce energy consumption.

“Finally, we issue a commissioning report. The report summarizes the work we’ve done. It identifies and recommends new opportunities for savings. And it forecasts likely savings from the recommended projects.”

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Publication date: 6/6/2016

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