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Whole Foods Installs Country’s Greenest Refrigeration System

Whole Foods has unveiled the most environmentally advanced grocery retail refrigeration system in the United States at its Santa Clara, Calif., store, which opened July 26.

The new system, which comes at a time when California is looking to significantly reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases – including hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigeration systems – eliminates all direct greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration, thereby preventing the more than 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a typical supermarket emits annually, which is more than the entire annual electricity use of more than 1,000 homes.

Whole Foods Market’s Hydrocarbon/CO2 Cascade System reduces the environmental impacts of refrigerants to near-zero while greatly improving energy efficiency. It uses propane, a natural refrigerant, to condense carbon dioxide – the most eco-friendly refrigerant available – with a climate impact thousands of times less than typical HFCs. The carbon dioxide is then piped through refrigeration systems to keep products cool. With high heat-carrying properties, the use of carbon dioxide reduces both the amount of refrigerant needed and the energy required to run refrigeration systems.

Simultaneously, a heat-reclaim system captures the heat generated by the system, and uses it to preheat water for the store’s later use, while also supplementing space heating. This allows the store to greatly reduce the amount of natural gas burned to heat water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently banned the use of some common refrigerants, including R-404A and R-507A, for new installations and retrofits due to their climate impact. Also, in July, the parties to the Montreal Protocol met to negotiate a worldwide plan to eliminate the use of other harmful refrigerant gases over time. California has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce refrigeration emissions, with rules in place that are being adopted nationally, and proposed efforts to further reduce emissions from these sources, in line with Gov. Jerry Brown’s directive for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

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