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Off the grid: Walgreens opens self-powered pharmacy of the future

Geothermal, solar, and wind energy are all in play

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Walgreens net zero lead
Walgreens net zero lead

It’s been said that sunshine is the best disinfectant, but might it also be good medicine? Walgreens is betting on it with the opening of its solar-powered drugstore of the future — America’s first dedicated retail space that generates all of the energy it needs to operate on-site.

Built just north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, the new “net zero” energy store is a sort of test bed for developing sustainable strategies that could power new drugstores going forward. To capture adequate energy — the store needs around 200,000 kWh each year — designers combined myriad different technologies. Among them are solar panels and wind turbines, as well as the use of geothermal energy and LED lighting.

The store will serve as an educational platform as well as a promotional tool — Walgreens has put major emphasis on making their eco-friendly status both visible and informative. All around this eco-flagship store there are placards describing the store’s environmentally friendly features, and curious shoppers can take tours to see some of the high-tech geothermal efforts. The location of the store is in close proximity to both the Walgreens headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois as well as the Northwestern University campus, making it accessible as a learning tool for people from both places. “It’s a proof of concept and a pilot. It’s also our living learning lab. Everything in the store is monitored so that we can learn from it,” says Walgreens' manager of engineering, Jason Robins.

So what does a net zero store of the future look like?

Walgreens net zero energy store in Evanston, Illinois


The store features large windows to allow in natural light, and white paint to let that light diffuse through the building. All of the artificial lighting is provided by LED, meaning the electricity requirement is much lower than it would be with typical fluorescent lights.