Few are aware of the fast pace of change taking place in the supermarket plant rooms that deliver refrigeration to us all on a daily basis.
At Coles Katoomba last month the results were proudly displayed by Coles Head of Engineering, Store Development, Calum Shaw to Senator Doug Cameron, accompanied by ALP Candidate for Macquarie Susan Templeman and Ward 1 Councillor Don McGregor.
Initiated by the Australian Refrigeration Association, an industry group comprised of proponents of natural refrigerants, the intent of the site visit was to highlight the outstanding achievement now being made by Coles at their new stores.
“I was extremely impressed by just how far Coles has moved in the last few years in reducing both their environmental impacts and costs,” Senator Cameron said.
“Last year, the Gillard Government introduced a levy on the synthetic hydrofluorocarbon HFC refrigerants, as a complementary measure to the price on carbon. These gases have an impact on global warming that is sometimes thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. End users such as Coles have been planning for this for many years, and the state-of-the-art carbon dioxide cascade refrigeration system at the Katoomba store is the result.
“Coles deserves great credit for reducing the direct emissions of fluorocarbon refrigerants, and have been rewarded by substantial cost savings. I'm very pleased to see this kind of innovation being used to reduce energy consumption and eliminate the cost of using synthetic refrigerants,” said Senator Cameron.
Until recently conventional supermarket refrigeration systems have relied on a fluorocarbon refrigerant known as HFC 404a that have had an average leakage rate of around 15 per cent of the charge, which is typically around 500-1000kg for a suburban supermarket. Although safe for the ozone layer, every kilogram of HFC 404a has the same climate impact of just less than 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Even before the substantial increase in refrigerant prices introduced by the Clean Energy Future program, the cost burden of leaking HFC refrigeration systems was of concern to supermarket operators. Rapidly rising increases in atmospheric HFC concentrations are a relatively easy source of emissions to control.
As far back as 2005 the impending introduction of a price on carbon led to the construction by Coles of the first carbon dioxide supermarkets in Australia in Gisborne (Vic) and Winmalee (NSW). Many design advances have been made since then.
“Coles has invested heavily and spent a lot of time and money on designing, testing and trialing environmentally safe carbon dioxide refrigeration systems to deliver the most cost and energy efficient solutions,” said Coles’ head engineer Calum Shaw.
“We have worked hard to research best practices all over the world. We know retailers and system designers across Europe well and talk with them regularly to keep across the latest developments in this rapidly moving field. Applying this knowledge to Australian conditions with our contractors has enabled us to develop new supermarkets that are among the best in the world.
“There are many improvements we've made to cut costs and electricity use, things like efficient LED lighting, installing night blinds on display cabinets, and integrating the air conditioning system with the refrigeration in the one central plant. But using carbon dioxide refrigerant throughout all the fixed cabinets in store is an efficient and future proof approach,” Mr Shaw said.
“Coles now has 44 carbon dioxide stores among the over 700 we own, and as new stores are developed and existing ones retrofitted, this number will grow rapidly.”