Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Technology Worth Waiting For

We’re energized! The commissary in our North Atlantic region now has the United State’s first-of-its-kind renewable energy generation system. The commissary uses its own spent cooking oil to power its electricity needs.

When we finally flipped the switch on this innovative project at the Everett, Massachusetts facility on August 13, I let out breath I had been warned not to hold. You see, our energy team and our implementation partner have been working on this seemingly simple technology upgrade for more than four years. A lesson in patience, this project also illustrates of the kinds of challenges that small alternative-energy companies face when it comes to to providing businesses and consumers with choices beyond the grid.

Here’s the background. Our 45,000-square foot North Atlantic Commissary supplies more than 40 stores in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey with much of their prepared foods. Preparing these foods in one location is really helpful to our stores, especially since many of our smaller stores don’t have the room to prepare these types of fresh foods. Operating around the clock, the commissary’s kitchen requires a lot of electricity and produces more than 1,200 gallons of spent cooking oil each week.

As of this year, with development and implementation help from Lifecycle Renewables, Inc., our commissary’s waste cooking oil, along with that from nearly two dozen nearby Whole Foods Market® stores, is clean, chemical-free biofuel for an internal combustion engine custom designed to use canola oil to generate electricity and usable heat to offset the power needs for the facility.

The use of the system is projected to reduce electricity costs by about 20%. And the environmental benefits? The generator can meet the annual electricity needs of the entire commissary, just over 2,000,000 kWh’s, without relying on the grid. New carbon dioxide emissions are avoided by producing power with waste biomass. Even better, vegetable oil fuel exhaust emissions contain almost no sulfur oxides and sulfates, which are major contributors to acid rain. Finally, the waste oil is reused instead of dumped or fed to livestock (as is sometimes done in the industry). From our perspective, these are a lot of positives!

This project took four long years to come to fruition but it was definitely worth is and we think it’s a good fit for the portfolio of alternative energy options that we’re using at our facilities throughout the company.

What’s your latest small-scale energy-saving scheme? Are you using a clothesline, looking into a solar-charger for your phone or pedaling your bicycle to school or work? Do you know anyone who’s done a waste oil conversion for their car or truck?