Price Chopper installs ‘green’ cooling system

The renovated Price Chopper on Ballston Avenue in Sarartoga Springs has a new refrigeration system t

All those doors on the refrigerator and freezer cases at the renovated Price Chopper on Ballston Avenue don’t just make for a cleaner-looking aisle.

They’re also saving energy by keeping cool air next to the products and warmer air near the shoppers.

It’s one of the environmental changes that the Rotterdam-based Golub Corp. has made in its new stores, although the Ballston Avenue store’s biggest change is invisible to even the most observant shopper.

Its new refrigeration system employs technology used nowhere else in North America.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently gave the company kudos for the more efficient system. The EPA says traditional refrigeration systems that use older chemicals have a global warming potential 3,000 times greater than the new system, which uses R-404A, a hydrofluorocarbon blend, to condense carbon dioxide in the air.

Differing viewpoints

The EPA said in a statement that R-404A does not deplete the ozone layer like older refrigerant HCFC-22, uses less of the new refrigerant than would be needed to achieve the same temperature the old way and minimizes leaks.

That’s equivalent to taking 160 cars off the road each year, the agency said.

“We’d like to see every supermarket in the nation follow Price Chopper’s example,” Alan J. Steinberg, EPA regional administrator, said in a statement.

Not everyone agrees that the new chemical is better for the environment.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace said in publications on its Web site that R-404A still contributes significantly to global warming and simply replaces one dangerous chemical with another.

But Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub said the company listens to the EPA on such matters, not Greenpeace. “That’s not what the EPA has advised, and we see the EPA as the authority on the issue.”

Refrigeration company Hill PHOENIX of Georgia developed the new system for Price Chopper over the last year and half, said Bill Sweet, Golub Corp. vice president of engineering and construction.

“Everybody’s interests now are in reducing the greenhouse gases,” Sweet said.

And in saving money on utility costs.

Although the $175,000 refrigeration system cost about 20 percent more than a traditional model, Price Chopper expects to see a decrease in the bottom line of its utility bill, Sweet said.

He won’t know for another six to nine months how much the company will save, but said the average utility bill for a 60,000-square-foot supermarket is about $500,000 a year, and engineers for the new refrigeration project predicted Price Chopper would save about 10 to 20 percent.

“Utility costs in general are big overhead costs,” Sweet said. “It’s something that we battle on a daily basis.”

If the company does realize such savings, Sweet plans to implement the system in other new stores and renovations.

Other “green” initiatives already are standard in new stores, he said. Those that have been renovated recently, such as the Wilton and Malta stores, harness heat thrown off by refrigeration cases to heat water for sink use and to heat sidewalks and loading docks to melt snow and ice. They also use skylights to reduce electricity use for indoor lighting.

The new Colonie store will be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver-certified supermarket in the state.

And the new 240,000-square-foot main office complex in downtown Schenectady will incorporate recycled materials wherever possible and other environmental improvements in an attempt to get gold LEED certification, Golub said.

Price Chopper has been a GreenChill partner with the EPA since Jan. 1, meaning it agrees to use only ozone-friendly technologies in all new and remodeled stores.

Most companies in the industry are members of the voluntary program, including Maine-based Hannaford Brothers, which also is striving to be more efficient in its refrigeration systems, according to a news release put out by the EPA earlier this year.

GreenChill partners have saved a total of almost $13 million from making changes in refrigerants, the EPA reported.

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