Wind, Solar Top Walmart Food Distribution Center

Wind, Solar Top Walmart Food Distribution Center

Balzac distribution center - Courtesy Walmart

The newest Walmart Canada fresh and frozen food distribution center is expected to be 60 percent more energy efficient that Walmart's other centers and is topped by wind turbines and solar panels.

The $115 million, 400,000 square foot facility in Balzac, Alberta, features the company's first foray with vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells and with on-site wind turbines and solar thermal panels.

Two 30-kilowatt wind turbines are on the ground of the center, which distributes frozen and fresh goods to 104 stores in western Canada, and 16 solar thermal panels will provide energy for heating water for offices and maintenance.

The refrigeration system in the center includes demand-response capabilities so that it can pull electricity during off-peak times. Ammonia is used as a coolant in the system instead of chlorofluorocarbons like Freon, making the cooling system 33 percent more energy efficient.

To avoid wasting energy from losing cool air, the center's doorways between areas that are different temperatures were designed to have smaller gaps between them and the vehicles that will be going through them, windows were eliminated from dock door designs, electronic monitors were installed to make sure no doors are not accidentally left open, and automatic doorways create air flows that keep air from going into areas with different temperatures.

The warehouse and parking lot are lit by LEDs, which provided an added benefit for refrigerated areas since they don't produce heat like incandescent lights.

Also, the 71 vehicles used to move goods around are powered by hydrogen fuel cells instead of lead acid batteries, halving vehicle-related carbon dioxide emissions.

All together, Walmart Canada expects all of the center's energy features to help it avoid $4.8 million in energy expenses over five years.

Balzac distribution center - Courtesy Walmart