A Lidl US store in Kinston, N.C., was named the “Best of the Best” GreenChill certified store in a breakfast ceremony yesterday at the Food Marketing Institute’s Energy & Store Development Conference in Atlanta.

The majority of the cases in the store, both medium- and low-temperature, are self-contained units that use a hydrocarbon refrigerant, with a glycol water-loop system employed to remove heat from cases, said Matt Finnell, national energy manager for Arlington, Va,-based Lidl US (a division of Neckarsulm, Germany-based Lidl), who accepted the award.

Finnell did not confirm that the hydrocarbon is propane, though it is widely understood in the U.S. HVAC&R industry that propane is the refrigerant used.

The GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership is a decade-old voluntary program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The GreenChill program supports leak and charge reduction and the use of advanced refrigeration technology; it also certifies stores that meet certain leak, charge and technology criteria (at silver, gold and platinum levels) over a 12-month period running from July 1-June 30. About 11,000 U.S. supermarkets from all 50 states are in the program, representing about 29% of U.S. stores.

Lidl’s Kinston store is the first to receive GreenChill certification for a store that uses self-contained cases as its primary refrigeration system.

The Best of the Best recognition goes to the certified store regarded as the “best” of all stores certified during the 12-month period. Over the last several years, the award has been given to stores using natural refrigerant systems, including transcritical COand ammonia/COcascade systems.

“This award allows us to recognize a lot of innovation in the industry,” said Tom Land, manager of GreenChill, who presided at the awards ceremony. He noted that the Lidl store’s self-contained architecture is “an emerging technology in U.S. food retailing.”

A self-contained display-case architecture that covers most or all of a store’s refrigerated and frozen products, while used by Lidl and other retailers in Europe, is new to the U.S. market. Other U.S. retailers generally employ self-contained air-cooled propane cases on a spot basis.

The self-contained layout “allows us quick reaction” when installing fixtures at a new store, said Finnell. He declined to comment on how much hydrocarbon refrigerant Is used in each refrigeration circuit (150 g is the most allowed by law) or whether multiple circuits are used in any of the cases.

Some large self-contained cases, such as multi-decks, are known to use multiple propane circuits (each still under 150 g). The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is working on raising the propane charge limit for its standard to 500 g.

In Europe, Lidl said in 2016 that it has committed to using propane for all new plug-in, self-contained refrigerated units throughout its German stores and plans to roll out R290 for all future installations across Europe. In some instances, Lidl is employing propane chillers with a secondary glycol loop to remove heat from the cases.

Finnell acknowledged that Lidl US follows the lead of its German parent company with respect to store design and sales approach (focusing on low-price private-label products. Each Lidl outlet contains six aisles, with water-cooled refrigerated and frozen foods running along the left side and back perimeter of the store, as well as air-cooled produce cases, semi-vertical meat-and-poultry cases, and multi-temperature chest units. 

The Kinston supermarket is the first of “more than 10” Lidl US stores that have been recognized by GreenChill with Platinum certification – the highest level. Platinum is the highest certification that the GreenChill Partnership grants a supermarket, based on either extremely low charge and leak rates for HFC refrigeration systems or the use of refrigerants with a GWP under 150.

The Kinston location was one of the first 10 Lidl US stores to open in the U.S. on June 15, 2017. Lidl US now operates 57 U.S. stores across seven Mid-Atlantic and South-Atlantic states.

Lidl stores occupy 21,000 sq ft of selling space, out of a total of 36,000 sq ft.

Other awards

A number of other food retailers received 2018 GreenChill Recognition awards at the ceremeony.

Whole Foods Market received the “Distinguished Partner” award. The award is given to an individual or organization “demonstrating extraordinary leadership and initiative in achieving GreenChill’s mission in the past year.”

Whole Foods is one of the leading users of transcritical CO2 systems in the U.S., and has also tested cascade systems using ammonia or propane on the high side and CO2 as a secondary refrigerant. Land praised Whole Foods’ willingness to share “detailed information about many systems” with the industry in GreenChill webinars.

The “Best Emissions Rate” award for the lowest corporate annual refrigerant emissions rate in calendar year 2017 went to Harris Teeter (chain category) and City Market Onion River Co-op (small independent category). The winners’ emission rates, which includes emissions from refrigeration (including under-50-lb systems) and air conditioning, were not disclosed.

Other awards included:

  • Store Certification Excellence (supermarket category) for the retailer with the most certified stores in the past year: Sprouts Farmers Market (81 stores).
  • Store Certification Excellence (non-supermarket category) for the OEM with the most system installations in certified stores in the past year: Hillphoenix (204 stores).
  • Store Re-Certification Excellence for each supermarket that has renewed its certification for five consecutive years: Hannaford, Turner, Maine; Whole Foods Market, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Sprouts Farmers Market, Fresno, Calif.; Stater Bros., Redlands, Calif.; and Weis Markets. Hillsborough, N.J.
  • Most improved emissions rate: Harris Teeter (year-to-year) and Hanover Co-op Food Stores (since baseline year).
  • Superior Goal Achievement for each retailer that achieves its annual GreenChill refrigerant emissions-reduction goal: Coborn’s, Food Lion, Harris Teeter and Hy-Vee.
  • Exceptional Goal Achievement for each retailer that achieves its “stretch” refrigerant emissions goal, which aims for a greater emissions reduction than the regular goal: Hy-Vee.

“This award allows us to recognize a lot of innovation in the industry.”

Tom Land, GreenChill

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