Walgreens has opened the nation’s first drugstore chain location that utilizes geothermal energy for heating and cooling. The location, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill., is expected to reduce its energy usage by about 46 percent as a result of the geothermal system.

“This is the most innovative and sustainable Walgreens yet, and we are proud to showcase our commitment to the environment here in Oak Park,” says Walgreens vice president of facilities development Tom Connolly. “We are always looking for new and creative ways to reduce our carbon footprint. After considering the use of geothermal, we have now made it a reality.”

Last year, The Village of Oak Park passed an ordinance requiring any retailer that wants to build a commercial property within its village limits to investigate geothermal energy. The ordinance is one of the ways Oak Park actively includes residents and retailers in its mission to be a clean, green and sustainable community.

Walgreens worked on its Oak Park location with Evanston, Ill.-based Indie Energy, which specializes in designing and installing geothermal systems. The company’s Smart Geothermal technology system cuts heating and cooling costs, and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Walgreens’ adoption of Indie Energy Smart Geothermal technology places it at the forefront of national retailers when it comes to extreme energy efficiency,” says Indie Energy chief executive officer Daniel Cheifetz. “This store provides online, real-time proof of carbon and cost savings, making it a leading example of sustainability.”

The Oak Park Walgreens geothermal system harnesses the earth’s heat utilizing a network of four closed-loop boreholes installed to depths of 650 feet, and a heat exchange system with the building that is controlled by Indie Energy EnergyLoop technology. A water-based heat transfer liquid exchanges heating and cooling energy with the earth, which provides a constant temperature of 55 degrees F. Inside the store, the geothermal heat pump and refrigeration systems pull heating energy from the fluid, or reject heat to the fluid to cool. The EnergyLoop system monitors and optimizes this exchange in real-time to provide the maximum energy efficiency.

Connolly says, “This type of system can work anywhere, but makes a lot of sense here in the Midwest. The ability to heat to room-temperature from 55 degrees, rather than from 10 degrees or cool it from 98 degrees will save a lot of energy.”

Not only does this sustainable energy alternative reduce the store’s carbon footprint, it also cuts down on heating and cooling costs. The energy saved at this location alone is equivalent to removing nine cars from the road or planting 43 acres of trees.

An informational kiosk at the store will show customers energy usage and savings from the geothermal system in real-time. The store also was built with other green features, including its lighting system, flooring and other components.