McKINNEY, Texas – Wal-Mart (search) is experimenting with its first environmentally friendly store as it searches for ways to conserve resources and save money.
The world's largest retailer was scheduled to open a 206,000-square-foot building Wednesday that will include features such as a 120-foot tall wind turbine that will produce about 5 percent of the store's energy and a rainwater harvesting pond designed to provide 95 percent of the water needed for irrigation.
"We want to push this thing to the limit," said Don Moseley (search), manager of experimental projects for the Bentonville, Ark., company. "We don't expect everything to work, but with every component of our business, we want to be more sustainable, more economical or more environmentally responsible."
Wal-Mart wants some of the features in the store's design to one day be viewed as standard, including waterless urinals in customer bathrooms, saving about one gallon of water per usage; recycled cooking oil from the store's deli and engine oil from the auto center that will be used to help heat the building; and climate control measures and alternative refrigeration units that are projected to save enough electricity to power 135 single family homes for one year.
The company said there were additional costs with the conservation efforts, but would not elaborate on the price tag.
"We want to see if this can save us some money and keep our costs down," said Gus Whitcomb, Wal-Mart's area director of corporate affairs.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been working to polish its image as an employee and community-friendly corporation. In April, the company earmarked $35 million over 10 years to help the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (search) conserve one acre of priority habitat for each acre developed.
Analyst Al Meyers of Retail Forward Inc. said he'll be watching the store and the company's environmental efforts closely.
"This is a little counterintuitive because they are a bare-bones, lowest operational expense company in the industry," he said.
Moseley said Wal-Mart chose McKinney, a city of 92,000 residents about 30 miles north of Dallas, for the new building because it has a traditional store nearby to gauge its progress.
A second experimental store is under construction in Aurora, Colo.