The biggest pharmaceutical chain in the United States has opened what is believed to be the nation's first net zero energy store.

The new store, situated at 635 Chicago Ave. in Evanston, Illinois, is equipped with a broad panoply of renewable energy facilities which engineers hope will enable it to generate just as much if not more energy than its operation consumes.

The store’s clean energy features take full advantage of the climate resources provided by its location on a sunny spot adjacent to wind-laden Lake Michigan, and encompass solar, wind and geothermal power.

A total of nearly 850 rooftop solar panels will supply enough electricity to cater to the energy needs of 30 Illinois households for a year, while the power produced by a pair of wind turbines rising to over 10 metres in height will serve to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

The store can also avail itself of geothermal energy sequestered deep below the surface of the earth. Engineers have drilled to a depth of more than 167 metres so that the more constant underground temperatures can be used to either heat or cool the store depending on surface weather conditions.

walgreens netzero

Other energy efficiency measures include LED lighting and daylight harvesting, the use of carbon dioxide refrigerant for refrigeration equipment as well as heating and cooling purposes, and the use of energy efficiency building materials during the process of construction.

The engineers behind the building’s efficiency drive expect the raft of measures and facilities they’ve introduced to generate 220,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, safely ahead of the 200,000 kilowatt hours required to operate the store.

Walgreens vice president of facilities development Thomas Connolly said the pharmaceutical chain hopes these technologies can be deployed in residential premises around the country – including those of other companies.

“We are investing in a net-zero energy store so we can bring what we learn to our other stores and share what we learn with other companies,” Connolly said. “Because we operate more than 8,000 stores, anything we do that reduces our carbon footprint can have a broad positive impact on the nation’s environment.”

The company now hopes to vindicate its efforts in the field of sustainability and efficiency via certification. It has already obtained GreenChill platinum certification via the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency and is currently seeking LEED platinum certification and Net Zero Certification via the highly rigorous Living Building Challenge.