Geothermal energy is a form of thermal energy (as implied by the name) that both comes from and is stored within the Earth beneath our feet. According to the Geothermal Energy Association, geothermal electricity amounts to 0.3% of all electricity consumed in the United States. While some hospitals and government buildings utilize geothermal energy, there is now a new client: corner drugstores.
Walgreens, the largest drugstore chain in the United States, has opened the first drugstore to utilize geothermal electricity. This wasn’t entirely out of the goodness of their hearts, however, as the city they built it in (Oak Park, Illinois) passed an ordinance that demands that anyone wanting to open a “commercial property” investigate using geothermal energy.
Regardless of whether or not their intentions were entirely pure, Walgreens Vice President of Facilities Development Tom Connolly seems pleased:
This is the most innovative and sustainable Walgreens yet and we are proud to showcase our commitment to the environment here in Oak Park. We are always looking for new and creative ways to reduce our carbon footprint. After considering the use of geothermal, we have now made it a reality.
The system Walgreens uses for the Oak Park, IL store is not overly complicated. However, for the sake of not butchering it in my explanation I’ll quote the press release:
The Oak Park Walgreens geothermal system harnesses the earth’s heat utilizing a network of four closed-loop boreholes installed to depths of 650 feet, and a heat exchange system with the building that is controlled by Indie Energy EnergyLoop technology. A water-based heat transfer liquid exchanges heating and cooling energy with the earth, which provides a constant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the store, the geothermal heat pump and refrigeration systems pull heating energy from the fluid, or reject heat to the fluid to cool. The EnergyLoop system monitors and optimizes this exchange in real-time to provide the maximum energy efficiency.
According to Walgreens, the energy that is saved from this store is equivalent to taking nine automobiles off the highway, or planting 43-acres of tees. Personally, when it’s 4:30am and I’m looking to lift the effects of a five-alarm hangover with some Twizzlers and Monster Energy Drink, I’m not really giving much thought to how the refrigerators are working. But then again, I’m not exactly the “caring” type about most things.