EXPERT COLUMN: Green Is the New Cool at Pick ‘n Save

It seems like everyone’s going green these days, but what’s the real advantage? Take a look at Roundy’s Pick ‘n Save, one of the nation’s greenest supermarkets, which opened on Jan. 14, 2014, in Menomonee Falls, Wis.

The Menomonee Falls Pick ‘n Save is one of only a handful of stores in the United States using CO2, an all-natural, green alternative to ozone-depleting HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerants. Roundy’s is using the new store to test an array of energy-efficient and green technologies, including Hillphoenix Cases and Clearvoyant LEDs, and a Micro Thermo Full Case Controller and Micro Thermo Transcritical Rack Controller designed by Washington, Mo.-based- Parker Sporlan specifically for CO2 systems.

“Through our investment in these sustainable technologies, we’re able to do something good for our global community,” says Robert Mariano, chairman, president and CEO of Milwaukee-based Roundy’s, which operates 163 retail grocery stores and 101 pharmacies under the Pick ’n Save, Rainbow, Copps, Metro Market and Mariano’s banners in the Midwest. “We strive not only to give our customers a great shopping experience, but also to contribute to the communities in which we do business,”

Industry-leading Green Refrigeration

Pick ‘n Save Menomonee runs on Hillphoenix’s Advansor Transcritical booster system that entirely eliminates the use of HFCs, which was for decades the refrigerant of choice in the supermarket industry. HFCs contribute to global warming. One pound of leaked HFC refrigerant has more global warming potential than 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Increasingly, food retailers are moving toward more sustainable natural refrigerants, including CO2, glycol and ammonia. Pick ‘n Save’s Advansor system is expected to yield a total carbon footprint reduction of 25,999,997 pounds over 10 years — the equivalent of removing more than 430,000 cars from the road per year. In addition to the green appeal of CO2, it’s a much less expensive alternative to HFC refrigerants -- around $1 per pound, compared with $8 per pound.

So why haven’t more retailers made the switch? CO2 systems are still relatively new to supermarket applications, and some question the higher capital cost involved. As companies like Roundy’s demonstrate the advantages of CO2, industry acceptance will no doubt increase.

“The technology does cost more money, but the installation cost is lower than for similar systems we're using elsewhere,” explains James Hyland, Roundy’s VP of investor and corporate communications. “Also, CO2 is cheaper on the operation side compared to glycol and other refrigerants.”

Roundy’s selection of the Micro Thermo Case Controller and Micro Thermo Transcritical Rack Controller optimizes the Advansor system by ensuring precise control over case operation, leading to lower energy usage and reducing temperature shocks to food.

“We will be conducting an energy analysis through all four seasons,” adds Hyland. “We know what to expect from the system, and it appears the cost of the system balances out with comparable systems, due to lower installation and operating costs.”

Advantages to the Advansor Transcritical CO2 booster system are as follows:

  • It employs CO2 as the only refrigerant, covering both medium-temp and low-temp loads.
  • CO2 has a high temperature heat of rejection, making it ideal for heat reclamation applications and efficient hot-gas defrosting.
  • CO2 systems operate under much higher pressures than conventional HFC-based systems. Many CO2 systems require steel piping throughout and carry a higher risk of pressure-related system breakdowns. The Advansor system eliminates those concerns by perfecting the use of pressure-reducing valves so that everything inside of the store operates under lower pressure, as it would with an HFC-based system. Contractors can use copper piping, and retailers can rest easy knowing that their Advansor system maintains pressures within a range normally found in traditional DX systems.
  • Hillphoenix research and development capabilities ensure that CO2 technology is a viable option for every merchandising configuration. From walk-ins to custom specialty cases, Advansor technology is available across all Hillphoenix product lines.

Energy-saving Case Merchandising and Walk-ins

In addition to the refrigeration system, the store is outfitted entirely with Hillphoenix cases and walk-ins. “In the past, we have purchased our salad bar, floral and bakery cases from other manufacturers,” notes Hyland. “For this store, we went with all Hillphoenix cases because of their expertise with this technology.”

Additionally, every case includes energy-saving Hillphoenix Clearvoyant LED lights. The custom light-rod design of Clearvoyant provides consistent and complete light distribution throughout the display fixture, eliminating dark spots and delivering 15 percent more lumens per watt than competitive systems.

Pick ‘n Save installed Hillphoenix Narrow Reach-In Low-Temp Frozen Food and Ice Cream Merchandisers with PureView Doors -- new to the Roundy’s lineup of merchandisers. Their merchandisers’ unique design ensures uniform case performance, lower average product temperatures, and increased merchandising visibility with optimal energy efficiency.

“Our merchandisers like the cases because the bottom shelf is higher, so customers don’t need to bend down as much to reach products,” says Hyland. “Also, the shelves are solid, so they’re easier to stock. They also like the handle and the look of the glass door.”

Pick ‘n Save walk-ins also use an environmentally friendly 245fa blowing agent that offers industry-leading insulating value, adhesion, strength, density and uniformity.

Henry Pellerin is VP marketing at Hillphoenix, a Dover company based in Conyers, Ga. The company designs and manufactures commercial refrigerated display cases and specialty products, refrigeration systems, integrated power distribution systems and walk-in coolers and freezers, and also specializes in training and design through its Learning and Design Centers.