Energy use is the largest contributor to REI’s climate impact, says the company. In recent years, the outdoor retailer has taken actions to reduce its greenhouse gas impact, and a retrofit of its data center is its latest effort, resulting in a 93 percent reduction in the cooling energy used to operate the facility.
REI’s data center houses servers and backup systems for computers, software systems, REI.com and point of sale for its 132 stores in 33 states. The retrofit uses “free cooling” via a rooftop evaporative cooling tower to keep servers at optimal temperatures. The system reduces the need for mechanical cooling nearly year-round, or about 8,672 hours annually, says REI.
The retrofit saves enough to power six REI stores – 2.2 million kilowatt hours each year. Improved efficiencies also mean improved business resiliency and stability in the event of a regional power outage.
In addition to rooftop cooling technology, the retrofit included upgraded backup battery banks, removal of old power distribution units, installation of floor brush barriers and curtain systems to contain cold air in critical areas, upgraded software to the backup power systems, and rewiring subfloor cabling to optimize airflow under the raised floor. Because of the efficiencies gained, REI also reconfigured its redundant power supply.
“By examining our operations through a sustainability lens, we’ve achieved financial and environmental benefits and met our goals to increase efficiency, minimize disruptions and reduce our carbon footprint,” said Kirk Myers, REI corporate social responsibility manager. “Being a good steward is reflected in how we care for the places where we play and work. We hope our actions show this is possible and financially prudent, and inspire others to actively manage their energy use.”
The project was completed in partnership with CLEAResult, an energy efficiency firm based in Austin, Texas, and Puget Sound Energy. The retrofit was recognized by the Association of Energy Engineers as the Region V Energy Project of the Year for 2013.
Last year, despite overall company growth of 7.4 percent, REI made progress in decreasing its footprint in several areas, including an absolute reduction of operational CO2 by 7.6 percent. Its total energy use was essentially flat despite adding five new stores.