On November 1, Lawson is opening a new store in chilly Akita Prefecture. Nothing particularly surprising about this–it seems like a new conbini opens nearly every day in Japan. However, this store will have some rather unique features.
In addition to solar panels, improved insulation, and LED light bulbs, this branch will also be testing out some new environmentally friendly features: Saving winter snow for summer air conditioning and using sunlight to heat the store!
As the climate continues its descent into madness, for many, it’s business as usual. For Lawson, though, it’s time for something new! The company has recently made a move to be more environmentally friendly, primarily by cutting energy usage. And, when you think about it, it’s not just good for the environment–it’s good for their utility bills as well!
▼ Layout of energy-saving features at new Lawson store.
You can clearly see the massive snow saver in the back and solar panels on the roof.
With the new features, Lawson expects the new branch to use half as much electricity as it would have in 2010. But how?
Their plan is surprisingly simple but not necessarily easy–or cheap to start with.
The major point is that the company will be collecting and storing snow over the winter. The storage unit is nearly 100 cubic meters (about 3,531 cubic feet) in volume and apparently will be able to preserve the snow without using any electricity thanks to some miraculous insulation. In the summer, the snow will be used to air condition the store by running water through pipes routed through the container.
For those worried about staying warm this winter, Lawson has a rather novel way of keeping warm as well. Pipes are installed under the store floor, and water heated by the sun will be pumped through the pipes! Though floor heating isn’t exactly new, we thought it was pretty clever of them to use solar-heated water. However, it looks like this will only be used behind the counter, so you’ll have to be an employee to experience the joy of sun-warmed toes.
Both of these features are the first in the industry, giving Lawson some excellent ecological bragging rights. There is one drawback though: Initial setup costs for the store are twice as much as a regular store. According to their website, a Lawson store costs around 3,075,000 yen (roughly US$31,000) to set up, though this seems to be for already-constructed buildings. It’s hard to say how much it would cost if this is an entirely new building, though we imagine it’s not cheap.
In addition to these new features, the store will also be fitted with solar panels, insulated windows, a geothermal heat pump, high-quality wall and roof insulation, LED light bulbs, energy-efficient freezers and refrigerators, and other energy-saving devices. If you happen to live in Yurihonjou in Akita Prefecture, be sure to swing by the new store and let us know how it is!
While this is only a test store for now, if the energy-saving features work as hoped, they plan to start using them far and wide. Though we imagine they won’t be trying to save any snow in Okinawa…