Co-op reduces their footprint with CoGen power

April 18, 2016

Earth Day is April 22, a day where worldwide events are held to celebrate environmental protection.  It’s cool to be part of Earth Day and to talk about change, but it’s even more important to do something about it. An amazing new initiative at one Calgary area Co-op store proves change is more than just a buzzword.

First celebrated in 1970, a lot has changed since the inaugural Earth Day. Consumption is no longer king, and there are future generations to think about. That’s why Co-op stores have engaged in an experiment that’s not only saving energy for the planet, it’s also saving money for customers.

rowsofcorn webCo-op’s Co-Gen Power: a store that powers itself

In June, Co-op’s High River Store becomes the first and only store in not just the Co-op chain, but the Calgary region to implement something called Co-Gen power. Co-Gen power, in a nutshell uses natural gas energy coming into the store, and converts it to both electricity and heat. So rather than having the store hooked up to a gas line and the electrical grid, the store in essence becomes self-contained; a power outage wouldn’t mean lights out at High River Co-op. Heat is gathered from the boilers and from exhaust and is used to heat or cool the store, which means light and refrigeration stays on in a major emergency. That means High River Co-op could very well be the only open facility in the area with fresh water and food. 

Why Co-Gen?

So why did Co-op choose to go this route? Tony Argento, Director of Real Estate & Development for Co-op explains, “we were looking to add an emergency generator as a back up to the grid in the event there is another flood event in (High River).  However an emergency generator would not be able to prevent the loss of product because it would not be big enough to keep the entire store operational.  We then looked at the Co-Gen system which would be able to keep the store fully functional even if there was another flood and the Town lost its grid power.  Our store could be open and functional even if the entire Town went dark due to a blackout.”

sunflower webBut there’s more to the Co-Gen project; utility cost savings are at least 30% to 50% of Co-op’s current power grid cost, plus, emissions are reduced, making the store more environmentally friendly.

Co-Gen power in the store provides a heating and electric system that is 85% efficient, compared to the average efficiency of 40% for a store getting its power from the grid. Not to mention, that every store that’s able to generate its own power decreases the draw off the main grid, particularly during peak times.

How does it work?

To simplify, natural gas powers an engine inside the store. The gas engine in turn powers an electric generator, which zaps electricity to the store for things like lights, display cases, cash registers and automatic doors. At the same time, a parallel system is at work; the gas engine is powering boilers which are used for heating the store. Meat and seafood counters, or freezers are also tied into the system.

wheatfield webWhat are the benefits of Co-Gen power?

•saves Co-op money, trickle down effect is savings to the customer

•saves power draw from grid

•helps the environment

•critical in emergency situations or power outages

While the High River store will be the only store using Co-Gen power for now, Argento says that if all goes well, the system could be expanded to eight more stores, a great goal as the world celebrates Earth Day.

“Caring for the environment is undoubtedly a priority for Calgary Co-op and should be for any corporate organization that operates in urban and rural communities,” explains Argento.  “Energy consumption has a major impact on the environment which can then impact the quality of goods and products that Co-op sells to their members and customers.  Taking responsibility of its own GHG emissions and reducing its operating costs allows Co-op to continue to be competitive and provide their members and customers produce and products at competitive cost.”  

- Erin L

To celebrate Earth Day Co-op will be offering one FREE  Reusable Shopping Bag with purchase of any combination of two (2) Co-op Gold Organic and/or Kruger Purex or Spongetowels Envirocare paper products for the week of April 17 – 23, 2015. -

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