The new Walgreens store in Evanston, Ill. is generating worldwide buzz for its innovative use of renewable energy. The "Net Zero Energy" building was recently showcased at Northwestern University's, "Conversations on Innovation in Design and Construction" on April 24th. Evan Wisthuff, LEED-accredited professional and Project Manager at Graycor Construction Company, was invited to speak about the solar installation along with presenters that included Jamie Meyers from Walgreens, Susie Schneider from SoCore Energy and Gaute Grindheim from HOK.
Last year, Graycor was called upon by SoCore Energy, the nation's leader in solar portfolio development, to install a state-of-the art photovoltaic system for Walgreens. To achieve the team's goal of a "Net Zero Energy" building, panels were installed on 79% of the roof and drive-thru areas, sloped to optimize production and wired into a sophisticated monitoring system.
Graycor's Evan Wisthuff described the installation, saying "Rack-mounted micro-inverters and grounding cables were installed first. Then, 849 solar modules were attached to the standing seam metal roof using S-5 clamps. The entire process was designed to make assembly as efficient as possible." The demanding schedule and prototype nature of the project meant that the team had to overcome obstacles along the way. "Rooftop access was a challenge," says Wisthuff. "With the fast pace, areas around the building were often congested with subcontractors, deliveries and site work so we had to change access points to maintain a safe, productive work area."
This new store is different from a typical Walgreens in that it was developed to test energy-saving strategies that could be utilized at the thousands of existing stores or the hundreds of new stores in the pipeline. Jamie Meyers, Manager of Sustainability for Walgreens stated, "We've committed to 20% energy reduction by 2020. We plan on learning from this new store and applying those ideas across the chain."
A growing interest in solar is not unique to Walgreens, as many corporations are looking to renewable energy to save money and lower their carbon footprint. Susie Schneider, Chief of Staff at SoCore explained how falling panel prices have significantly changed the landscape over the past 5 years and now more companies are expressing an interest in using solar to hedge against rising utility rates. With a fast-growing solar resume, Graycor has experienced a similar increase in demand for projects like these, which are gaining traction across North America. Graycor Co-Chairman Matt Gray states, "As technology makes renewables more affordable, owners have options that can save money and also show that they are conscious of the impact that their buildings have on the environment. We are proud to have worked with Walgreens and SoCore on this project and look forward to the opportunities in solar that lie ahead."