Two of the UK’s largest co-op societies have been making significant strides towards improving energy efficiency in refrigeration at their food stores.
The Midcounties Co-operative and Lincolnshire Co-operative have both taken measures to become more eco-friendly in the way their stores are heated and produce is kept cool.
Midcounties’ new food store in Old Square Shopping Centre, Walsall includes the first refrigeration equipment of its kind anywhere in the country.
A pioneering air conditioning system pumps air around the building while also recovering energy. An external freezer varies the refrigerant flow, meaning units only work at the rate they are needed – allowing for substantial energy savings. Food display cases also use a low amount of energy.
Ean Jones, managing director of 24 Seven Cooling, which installed the system, said: “Midcounties Co-op was keen to do its part for the environment, whilst also saving on costs, by ensuring its new store was fitted out with the latest energy-saving equipment.
“We were able to match up to this brief by sourcing a freezer unit that not only is much cheaper to run, compared to existing refrigeration equipment, but uses advanced techniques to keep the amount of energy used to the bare minimum.
“It’s a win-win situation, of course, as we want to be green too as a business.”
The new store opened in January and is part of a multi-million pound revamp of the town’s St Matthew’s Quarter. The last time the society had a store in the town was 28 years ago, on Bridge Street, when it was still known as the Walsall and District Co-op.
Lincolnshire Co-op Society has also been making energy savings through pioneering refrigeration systems.
Since April 2015, some stores have been using a different type of refrigeration gas to power its fridges. The R449A gas has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of just 1397 – a third of the level of the gas previously being used. The system was trialled in one store, before being expanded to five more during 2015. There are plans in place for more over the next 12 months.
Over the last few years, the society has been rolling out heat reclamation systems that use waste heat from the refrigeration process to heat the store; saving on energy and reducing its environmental impact.
There is also a longstanding Energy Working Group who meet to identify and implement energy-saving measures. In 2010 the Energy Working Group set a target of reducing Lincolnshire Co-op’s energy use by 15% by 2015. That target was exceeded last year when energy use relative to sales was down nearly 26% on figures from 2009.
Store development manager Matthew Wilkinson said: “We’ve been very pleased with the energy savings that we’ve seen in stores where the heat reclamation system has been installed.
“Replacing our refrigerant gas with a more eco-friendly alternative is just one of the many environmental measures Lincolnshire Co-op has put in place; we also recycle the majority of our waste, have solar panels on some of our stores and use LED lightbulbs improve our electricity use.
“Looking after the environment is all part of looking after our members and the local communities they live in.”
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