Target’s big ATMOsphere America 2014 announcement: switch to CO2 refrigeration

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With a change of location from Washington DC to San Francisco, 2014 was the largest ever ATMOsphere America conference organised by market development expert shecco. Featuring over 60 presentations, in a surprise announcement during the event’s popular Food Retail Panel, Target, the second largest discount retailer in the US, announced that it would shift to hybrid CO2 systems for new stores.

As the use of natural refrigerants in supermarkets becomes a growing trend in North America, representatives from leading retailers including Walgreens, Whole Foods Market, Delhaize America, and Sobeys presented promising energy use results from both pilot stores in the US, and CO2 standard stores in Canada. In a session moderated by Tom Land from the US EPA GreenChill partnership, strong support for CO2 refrigeration technology was voiced by ATMOsphere America retailers, who were all in agreement on the need for retailers to look at total cost of ownership in order to prove the business case for natural refrigerant commercial refrigeration systems.

Target officially announces shift to CO2 hybrid systems for new stores

To date, Target Corporation has trialled CO2 systems in five stores, with each new store implementing lessons learned from its predecessors. Although Target’s CO2 systems were initially only advantageous with regard to one of the company’s five total cost of ownership metrics - sustainability, improvements in energy consumption have since been achieved.

As a result, Target is officially changing its prototype for new stores from R404A to hybrid R134a/CO2 systems, said Paul Anderson, Sr. Group Manager of Engineering, an announcement that was widely praised by ATMOsphere America participants. These new CO2 systems have a carbon footprint 65% lower than previously used systems.

The comparatively high installation, equipment and maintenance costs, for example equipment costs are 25-30% more than for HFC systems, are expected to decrease in the near future.

Whole Foods achieves comparable energy efficiency and usage with CO2

American supermarket chain Whole Foods, specialising in natural and organic foods, has invested in a number of CO2 systems in it stores, including:
  • 3 stores using low temperature cascade secondary systems
  • 5 stores using CO2 cascade systems in five stores
  • 1 store using a CO2 transcritical system
Joining the conference via a video link, Mike Ellinger, Global Maintenance & Refrigeration Coordinator at Whole Foods, discussed the company’s ambitions with regards to its natural refrigerant installations. These include reducing synthetic refrigerant charge, reducing energy consumption and achieving maintenance comparable to direct expansion (DX) systems.

Whilst Ellinger did not yet have data on the company’s widely publicised CO2 transcritical store in Brooklyn, he did briefly talk about the refrigeration electrical usage of the Whole Foods CO2/R407A systems, which are comparable to that of an R407 system.

The success of any CO2 refrigeration project, says Ellinger, depends on properly trained technicians and partnering with local regulators in order to raise awareness and understanding of the functioning of a CO2 system.

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