New technology provides supermarkets with greater carbon reduction potential

Posted by James Ferre on 16th June 2009

First there was wind and solar energy, now UK supermarket operator Sainsbury’s is opening a store where the checkouts will be powered by people.In a European first, Sainsbury’s is installing a revolutionary invention which creates green energy every time a customer simply drives into the car park to do their shopping.

The system ensures that whenever a vehicle passes over the ‘Kinetic Road Plates’ in the car park, energy is captured which would otherwise be wasted. Sainsbury’s will channel the energy back into the store saving power that would normally be taken from the National Grid.

The ‘Kinetic Road Plates’ are expected to produce 30 kW of green energy an hour, more than enough to power the store’s checkouts. The system, pioneered for Sainsbury’s by Peter Hughes of Highway Energy Systems, does not affect the car or fuel efficiency; and drivers feel no disturbance as they drive over the plates.

How it works:

* Vehicles drive over the road plates placed in the road surface of the car park
* Plates are rounded so that it does not matter which direction you travel over the ramp
* The vehicle drives over the plates which are pushed down by the weight of the vehicle
* This creates rocking motions under the road surface that turn generators
* The generators create energy which is captured, redirected back to the store, and used as power for the checkouts and for other purposes

Alison Austin, Sainsbury’s Environment Manager, believes the new technology is a very exciting development for retailers.

“This is revolutionary, not only are we the first to use such cutting-edge technology with our shoppers, but customers can now play a very active role in helping to make their local shop greener, without extra effort or cost,” he noted.

UK supermarkets are considered to be among the world leaders when it comes to improving sustainability of stores.

Sainsbury’s newest store is an example of the future of supermarkets around the world, with simple features beyond the kinetic road plates including:

* Over two years, the store will harvest enough rainwater to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool – used to flush all of their toilets
* Solar thermal panels to heat up to 100% of hot water during the summer
* The store aims to reduce mains water usage by 50% compared to other existing stores of this size built before 2006
* Measures have been taken in the design process to ensure maximum use of natural daylight to cut electricity usage
* The floor to ceiling windows at the front of the store maximise natural light
* Installation of 140 sun pipes in the roof to allow natural light in and help save energy
* The electric lights within the store are on automatic dimmers so less electricity will be used on brighter days
* Stopped over 90% of the construction waste going to landfill by re-using it or recycling it
* At night blinds pulled down over their fridges. This saves 5% energy per year, which is equivalent to making 2.5 million cups of tea
* Extra secure cycle spaces have been installed to make it easier for customers to shop by bike, and the cyclepod is made from over 12,500 aluminium cans.
* They retrieve the cold air from fridges and re-use it to keep the checkout area cool
* LEDs which shine brighter in cold environments are also being used in the frozen food sections and the cold warehouse area behind the shop floor
* Energy usage in store will be constantly monitored via web-based technology that will show how much energy is being consumed in each part of the store. This can automatically be adjusted if areas are using more than they require