The Hog Hiding in Your Grocery Operation

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By Collin Coker - 03/21/2018

There’s a hog on the loose in your grocery store. It wreaks havoc during the day and creeps around your store at night, continually pushing up your energy bills. It is your walk-in freezer and it is an energy hog.

In the U.S. and Europe energy costs are the second largest expense for cold storage installations. In grocery stores especially, heat infiltration from continuous door openings and the constant traffic in and out of freezers dramatically adds to the cost of refrigeration. Add to the mix rising energy costs and peak demand pricing, and you have an untamable energy hog on your hands.

Grocers are likely familiar with peak demand pricing; a form of congestion pricing for electricity, where customers pay higher prices during periods of high demand. These charges can account for up to 70 percent of the total charges on your monthly energy bill. There are a variety of energy saving options that grocery stores can, and do, employ to cut down on refrigeration energy costs. Preventing heat infiltration and installing smart meters are incremental ways to curb energy waste in their freezers. But no solutions existed for reducing the large amounts of energy consumed by refrigeration systems themselves – until now.

Viking Cold Solutions addresses the energy hog in grocery stores with our thermal energy storage (TES) systems that absorb 85 percent of heat infiltration and save up to 35 percent of energy costs. At the heart of a Viking Cold TES system are modules comprised of our proprietary phase change material (PCM). During off-peak hours the grocery or distribution center’s existing refrigeration equipment will freeze the non-toxic, environmentally-safe PCM. During peak-hours, the PCM maintains stable temperatures and greatly reduces mechanical run time of your grid-dependent refrigeration systems, helping your facilities avoid expensive peak demand pricing. At times when the refrigeration is running, TES also allows for greater efficiencies in heat removal.

Third-party verified studies demonstrate the substantial savings that TES can bring through refrigeration efficiencies and shifting more energy use to off-peak hours. For example in 2017 a large international retailer invited Viking Cold to conduct a measurement and verification (M&V) study of its TES technology in their walk-in freezer for various energy scenarios (energy reduction, load shift, solar integration). Results included peak period run time reduction up to 60 percent, load reductions up to 85 percent, and 38 percent more stable temperatures. More research in 2016 by a third-party engineering firm selected by San Diego Gas and Electric (SDGE) conducted a study of our TES technology for the walk-in freezer at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. Using pre-installation baseline data, the study demonstrated more stable temperatures and a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption with TES, citing reduced refrigeration run time as a major contributing factor.

In addition to the energy savings accrued from efficiencies and avoiding peak demand pricing, utilities often offer financial incentives in the form of cash or bill adjustments for companies that install energy efficient systems. In fact, the Camp Pendleton study recommended that all utilities should incentivize the installation of TES technology in their markets.

Costs for grocery stores are on the rise, from electricity and labor to the cost of food. Researchers have found that $1 in energy savings is worth $59 at the register, so getting a handle on energy costs through refrigeration reductions and efficiency will help you tame the energy hog in your operations. Redirect those savings to innovating your stores, making your business more sustainable, and driving profits.

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