Whole Foods Invests in Alternative Energy

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Whole Foods Invests in Alternative Energy

Whole Foods Market has launched a comprehensive energy commitment that more than triples the number of its stores with solar panels, extending the grocer’s commitment to offset 100 percent of its use of non-renewable electricity with wind energy, and investing in energy reduction opportunities while retrofitting existing stores with energy-efficient lighting, equipment and mechanical components.

"Whole Foods Market sets the environmental bar even higher by pioneering the development and deployment of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power," said Lee Matecko, Whole Foods Market global VP of construction and store development. "We are also reducing energy consumption in new and existing stores with some exciting innovative technologies that are making a real difference."

Whole Foods recently contracted to add solar to more than 20 locations; including existing installations, solar will be brought to the rooftops of more than 30 of the company's stores nationwide. With an installation at its Berkeley, Calif., store in 2002, the company became the first retailer to introduce solar power as its primary lighting source. Whole Foods hopes to have close to 70 total locations with rooftop solar panels -- almost one-fourth of its total number of stores -- using solar power.

In addition, Whole Foods is once again offsetting electricity use in its North American locations in 2009, bringing its four-year total purchase to 2 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy credits from wind farms. This is the equivalent of the electricity used in more than 160,000 homes in one year. To create a similar environmental impact, more than 220,000 cars would have to be taken off the road for one year. In December 2005, the grocer became the first Fortune 500 company to offset 100 percent of its electricity use with wind energy credits.

The grocer is also expanding its comprehensive energy approach to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by using on-site alternative and renewable energy sources for new stores while reducing energy consumption in existing stores and facilities.

Whole Foods Market hosts and pays for the energy delivered by an on-site hydrogen fuel cell at its Glastonbury, Conn., store. The fuel cell, a first for a supermarket, generates 50 percent of the electricity and heat, and nearly 100 percent of the hot water needed to operate the store. Plans are in place to add fuel cells to other locations such as the Dedham, Mass., store opening this fall. The Dedham store will be the first supermarket in Massachusetts to generate nearly 100 percent of its electricity and hot water on-site with an ultra-clean 400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) fuel cell.

"We will be avoiding half, to almost all, of the power needed by traditional grid sources in several locations by using fuel cells and waste-to-electricity technologies," said Kathy Loftus, Whole Foods global leader of sustainable engineering, maintenance, and energy management. "We are also retrofitting existing stores with more energy-efficient equipment -- from state-of-the-art, energy-efficient lighting to more sophisticated energy controls and monitoring systems -- and have saved in excess 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in the past two years, reducing energy consumption up to 20 percent for certain stores."

Whole Foods set internal energy-reduction goals for new stores as well. The company is a steering committee member of the Department of Energy's Retail Energy Alliance and is participating in programs to develop buildings that will use 30 percent to 50 percent less energy than required by code, as well as working with manufacturers and partners to develop increasingly higher energy-efficiency equipment and systems for supermarkets.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods operates more than 275 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.