By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor
As LEDs continue to improve, convenience store retailers are biting the bullet and signing on for upgrades in order to reap cost saving thanks to both implementation rebates and overall energy cost reduction.
Tonawanda, N.Y.-based NOCO Express, which operates 35 locations in Western New York, rebuilt its Getzville, N.Y. location in 2013 and added energy efficient lighting to the new state-of-the art 6,300 square foot store. The Getzville store includes low-watt LED lighting, a refrigeration energy management system, and white roofing for increased light reflectivity. A light harvesting system was installed, complete with 16 skylights, which allow natural light to flow into the store.
An energy management control system automatically dims the store lighting fixtures during the peak daylight hours on an as needed basis. The new lighting systems were added to reduce energy consumption.
NOCO isn’t the only c-store chain getting proactive about lighting. As part of its commitment to sustainable operations, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores selected energy-efficient LED lighting by Cree Inc. to illuminate its new petroleum station, car wash and convenience store in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The new location features some 60 LED luminaires, along with an integrated dimming system. The new lighting is expected to reduce energy consumption and maintenance costs and yield an ROI in less than a year.
“Implementing energy-efficient LED lighting supports our goal of reducing overall energy consumption at new stores and in upgrades to our 128 locations,” said Randy Walthers, energy and utility manager for Raley’s. “We found a valued partner in Hi-Def Lighting & Electrical, who met our needs with high-quality Cree LED lighting equipped with a sophisticated control system for remarkable savings and light quality.”
Featuring an optional integrated sensor, Cree luminaires help Raley’s conserve energy and meet California’s daylight control requirement at the South Lake Tahoe store. As an example, the luminaires that Raley’s has added to the car wash operate at 20% power until the sensor recognizes that someone has entered the car wash, triggering the lights to return to full power.
The Raley’s store had a special challenge, because in South Lake Tahoe, the voltage can drop up to 30% during hot afternoons. “Cree luminaires are unaffected by these erratic voltage drops and continue performing at peak efficiency due to dependable drivers that include AC input protection,” noted Walthers.
Kum & Go is another c-store chain well known for its strong committed to sustainable practices. Its c-stores are built with energy and water savings in mind. In October, for example, Kum & Go replaced one of its smaller Marion, Iowa stores with a new larger store designed, constructed and submitted for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Kum & Go currently has 60 LEED-certified stores, with 11 additional projects under construction, which is the most of any convenience retailer in the nation.
The Marion store features solatube skylights, LED lighting (both inside and outside the store), low-flow, water-efficient fixtures and highly energy-efficient equipment. Each store is built using recyclable and locally sourced materials.
“Building more sustainable stores is just one of the many ways we live our commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen in the communities where we operate,” said Kum & Go President and CEO Kyle Krause.
The Time Is Now
For years, many retailers have been waiting for LED technology to improve and for costs to continue to come down. Derek Kirchner, the principal program advisor, for DTE Energy Co. in Detroit, Mich., noted that while technology and costs do continue to improve, 2014 looks like the ideal time for retailers to finally make the move.
“I really do think for those who have been waiting, that it’s getting to the point where now is the right time to upgrade to LED. Expenses have come down on LEDs to where most of the customers we talk to have been able to justify the business expense pretty quickly. The difference between waiting for what might be the next generation LED, or the next price break, is starting to be outweighed by the cost savings customers are starting to see immediately upon implementation,” he said.
On whether retailers should be considering lighting technologies other than LED at this point, Kirchner noted that most businesses decide it’s best to go with LED given LEDs long hours of life and cost benefit, along with a greater reduction in energy costs compared to other technologies. “While there are other technologies out there, we’re just seeing increased adoption in LED,” he said.
But before making the move to LED, Kirchner recommended reaching out to your local utility to find out what incentives they have in place. It also may be highly beneficial to inquire about incentives that exist for doing more than one type of sustainability program.
“In our programs in Michigan, we’re looking to get customers to take that next step and go beyond lighting, and as they upgrade their lighting also do another project in association with that lighting project to drive deeper savings. We have a multi installation bonus or special that we pay for customers doing multiple projects with no project being greater than 75% of the total incentives. So I encourage customers to reach out and find out what else is out there and other ways to improve your businesses and efficiency,” he said. “We have some customers doing door seals in our market in conjunction with the lighting project and that has gotten them greater savings and allowed them to get that payback down by doing more than one project at a time.”
From cooking equipment to boilers to air conditioning and heating, there could exist an opportunity to take advantage of deeper incentives that also result in energy saving cost reduction. Make sure to contact your utility company before embarking on a project to ensure you are doing everything required to qualify for the rebates offered.