Walmart Gets on the Green Bandwagon
Traditionally known for mass production and low prices, Walmart announced the opening of its first sustainable fresh food distribution center in the province of Alberta, Canada on November 10th. Estimated to be 60% more energy-efficient than Walmart's typical refrigerated centers, the Balzac facility will cut energy costs by $4.8 million over five years. The distribution center utilizes hydrogen fuel cells; solar, thermal, and wind power; LED lighting; "smart refrigeration;" energy efficient dock doors and doorways; as well as other ecocentric efforts in sustainability.
Just north of Calgary, Walmart states the 400,000 square-foot center cost a mere $115 million to build. As the "Perishable Distribution Centre" for 104 Walmart stores between Manitoba (mid-Canada) and the Pacific coast, approximately 800 jobs were created in construction and trade roles, and Supply Chain Management, Walmart's third-party logistics provider, will hire an estimated 600 employees.
What makes the facility so green? For starters, two 30-kilowatt wind turbines to supply electricity, expected to generate an estimated 100,000 kwh per year. Walmart contends that is enough energy to power approximately 40 average-sized Canadian homes annually. Beyond wind power, Walmart is using solar power. Sixteen solar thermal panels will provide energy for domestic hot water use in offices and maintenance areas, producing a maximum of over 205 kwh per day - comparable to heating the water supply of 20 Canadian homes with 40 gallon tanks.
Walmart is going beyond the facility itself and taking its eco-consciousness on the road. 71 material handling vehicles powered by hyrdogen fuel cells will reduce CO2 emissions by 55% or approximately 530 tons a year. To give you an idea of the impact of this change, Walmart reports the effect of using these trucks are the equivalent of taking 101 passenger vehicles off the road per year. Fear not Walmart fans, the vehicles are purported to actually improve productivity.
What's more, smart refrigeration promises to use ammonia as a coolant as opposed to Freon, which is known to deplete the ozone. Approximately 33% more energy-efficient, smart refrigeration will save the company an estimated $2 million in costs over 5 years.
LED lighting is the next green effort of the facility, as both its parking lot and warehouse will be illuminated via low-energy solid-state lighting. Estimated to be 69% more energy-efficient than incandescent lighting, the LED lights are also estimated to last approximately 20 years, saving Walmart an estimated 7 million kwh of electricity over five years as well as aiding in the avoidance of approximately $645,000 in costs.
Andy Ellis, Walmart Canada's SVP of Supply Chain and Logistics, notes, "We're extremely proud to open our sustainable distribution facility that I believe will set a positive example for our global operations, for business and the world." He adds, "What today serves as a demonstration facility, we hope to see as an industry norm in the no-to-distant future."