Saving Energy Saves Money

earth_marketLighting accounts for 20-50% of electricity consumption, reported the Small Business Administration (SBA). And while green initiatives might cost more up front, retailers are finding that they can result in some impressive savings.

By Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, Associate Editor.

Due to continually improving equipment, lighting usually provides the highest return-on-investment of major upgrades, the SBA explained. Michael Lawshe, president and CEO of Paragon Solutions, a design consulting firm in Fort Worth, Texas, calls lighting the “low hanging fruit” of energy-saving elements.

“Take your electric bill and analyze where you’re bleeding,” Lawshe said. “You’ll find that lighting is your No. 1 or No. 2 cost.”

“LED has gotten to the point where it’s a no-brainer concept; the savings and payback are so quick now compared to a few years ago,” said Michael Evans, executive vice president of real estate and business development for Atlas Oil, parent company for Earth Market Stores. “Switching to LED can result in a 40-60% savings on the electric bill.”

Interior LED lighting technology has also greatly improved and is getting better all the time, Lawshe said. “It’s more cost efficient and there are more design choices available now.”
The five Earth Market Store locations (the grand opening was held on Earth Day in April) in the Chicago area all have LED canopy, parking lot perimeter and some interior lighting. “You can buy a fixture for $500 and get a rebate from the utility company,” Evans said. “You can see a payback in less than two years.”

Taking the LEED
Kwik Trip’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) store in Oshkosh, Wis. was designed in 2007.

“The desire to look at LEED came from upper management and ownership; it was determined that many of the things we were doing already were going in the right direction and that with a little more design we could achieve a LEED certification,” said Leah Berlin, development coordinator for the La Crosse, Wis.-based company. “Kwik Trip’s culture promotes being a leader in the industry and making a difference in your community, and the LEED program fit that.”

There are currently 24 LEED-certified Kwik Trip stores. Energy savings add up to 20-30% over stores of the same size that were built prior to the LEED guidelines being in place, Berlin said.

She added that the energy-saving technologies are now used in all new stores and most remodels. Kwik Trip expects to open about 15 LEED stores within the next year.
Berlin explained that Kwik Trip sources materials with recycled content including casework, countertops, drywall, ceiling tile and concrete. The company also tries to source the material locally if possible.

Lighting for the coolers, canopy and lot is LED. Low flow toilets and water fixtures, smart irrigation controllers and elimination of unnecessary irrigation conserve water.
Stores are built with refrigeration rack systems, added Chad Juel, Kwik Trip’s facilities manager. In a typical refrigeration system excess heat (energy) is dispersed through its condenser. With the rack system, the stores recover some of this wasted energy from the refrigeration rack and use it to pre-heat the water prior to entering the water heater and boiler.

Rather than having numerous individual compressors for the equipment, the stores have one larger system with only four compressors. The system is able to match the refrigeration needs for the entire store and only run as much as needed.

Lawshe recommends the use of programmable energy management systems, such as the Emerson E2 system and SSDI. He explained that these systems, which can be programmed on site or remotely, can reduce energy consumption by about 20% for new and remodeled buildings by balancing costly energy spikes. It can accomplish this by regulating when compressors, fans and other pieces of equipment kick on.

Spikes can occur when too many pieces of equipment turn on at the same time. The systems can also be used to manage refrigeration and thermostat settings.
Kwik Trip uses an energy management system. “This system gives us total control of our lighting, refrigeration and HVAC, and we are able to program it to make our equipment perform how we want it to,” Juel said. “This has allowed us to fine tune our control strategies in order to save energy, keep our co-workers comfortable and maintain our high standards for food safety.”

When considering insulation, it is just as important to think of the roof as well as the walls, Lawshe said. While black tar and gravel or metal roofs absorb heat, a white rubber membrane roof reflects it. Combinations of skylights and solar tubes that let in the daylight can significantly limit the need for artificial lighting.

Sustainable Citizens
Whether or not a company plans to apply for LEED certification for its facility (there is a cost involved), following the LEED guidelines makes sense from both economical and environmental perspectives, Lawshe said. More information about LEED guidelines and certification can be found on the Website of the U.S. Green Building Council at www.usgbc.
As a result of its resource conservation efforts, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go has improved energy efficiency in its convenience stores by 30%. Among the company’s initiatives are using high-efficiency HVAC systems, advanced refrigeration systems, Energy Star equipment, LED lighting improvements and Solatube skylights for natural lighting, said Adam Hammes, the Taylor, Mich.-based company’s manager of sustainability.

“At Kum & Go, we are committed to leading our industry in sustainability and being a responsible corporate citizen in the communities that we serve,” Hammes noted.
All of Kum & Go’s new footprint stores are designed, constructed and submitted for LEED certification. The company currently has 69 LEED projects.

At least 20% of the construction materials for new Kum & Go stores come from regional sources within 500 miles. Twenty percent of the construction materials are from recycled content, such as concrete and steel. Wood products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to come from sustainable forests.

Kum & Go uses no or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) paint and adhesives, flooring and wall coverings for better air quality. And water consumption is reduced by 20% with low-flow sinks, toilets and urinals.

Last summer, Hy-Vee opened its first convenience store built according to LEED guidelines in Lawrence, Kan. Among the environmentally-friendly features built into the store are solar panels atop the canopy covering the station’s gas pumps, interior LED lighting and skylights to cut down on energy usage, concrete floors that do not require wax or other chemicals to clean and a rooftop collection system that stores water to use to operate the toilets.

Landscaping beds feature native plants that require very little watering, and a grass lawn planted with buffalo grass instead of the usual fescue eliminated the need for an irrigation system.

For its Earth Market Stores, Atlas Oil is looking at energy efficient TVs to use in the stores to save money in the advertising arena, Evans said. “We can use the TVs for advertising specials across our network of Earth Market Stores, minimizing the use of traditional signage, which costs money to produce, uses fossil fuels to ship to the stores and creates cardboard and paper waste when the promotion ends. That could result in some substantial savings in both money and natural resources.”

The company is planning to open about 15 additional Earth Market Stores by the end of this year.

The commitment to conservation continues with the items Earth Market Stores sell. Customers who bring in their coffee cups or water bottles for recycling get a discount on their next coffee or water purchase. Permanent signage throughout the store and stickers on the bottles and cups ensures that customers are aware of the recycling program and how it works.“Earth Market isn’t just a theme for us; it’s a way of life,” Evans said. “It’s important for this generation and the next one coming up.”



  1. “You can buy a fixture for $500 and get a rebate from the utility company,”

    So the other customers of the utility company should be forced to pay higher rates in order to subsidize green technology in businesses that should be able to pick up the tab themselves? LED lighting is NOT cost efficient. If it were, businesses would be able to justify the expense without having someone else subsidize the cost. Any technology that requires subsidies in order to be cost effective for someone to buy it, isn’t saving anything it’s just shifting the cost burden to someone else.

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