CO2 (R744)-based refrigeration systems are the primary equipment financed by California for installation at 15 supermarkets through the state’s US$1 million F-gas Reduction Incentive Program (FRIP).

The 15 stores are owned by five food retailers, including four that will install new equipment: ALDI US (at seven new stores), Whole Foods Market (four existing stores), Costco Wholesale Corp. (one new store), and Stater Bros. Market (one new store). Two stores owned by Vallarta Supermarkets will replace R404 in existing systems with R449A. The announcement of the awards was originally made in January, without mention of the refrigeration systems being financed.

Supermarkets in California are facing much stricter rules regarding the use of HFCs, motivating greater interest in natural refrigerant systems.

Transcritical CO2 systems will be installed at six of the seven ALDI US stores, and self-contained R290 cases with a water loop will be used at the seventh. Four of the six transcritical stores will also use an adiabatic gas cooler, while two will employ parallel compression and gas ejector technology. ALDI US, a division of ALDI Süd, announced in March that nearly 400 of its stores use natural refrigerants, mostly transcritical CO2.

The FIRP funding for the seven ALDI US stores was coordinated through the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council’s (NASRC) Aggregated Incentives Program (AIP). NASRC is an environmental nonprofit that promotes natural refrigerant adoption in supermarkets. NASRC said its AIP program was instrumental in securing US$880,000 out of the US$1 million in total FRIP funding.

“The funding ALDI receives through FRIP supports our continued dedication to natural refrigerant technology,” said Dan Gavin, ALDI Vice President of National Real Estate, ina statement released by NASRC. “At ALDI, we continue to explore new ways to lower our carbon footprint, and we are particularly excited about the energy data we will receive from this outstanding program.”

One of the four Whole Foods Market stores, in San Francisco, will install a transcritical CO2 system with an adiabatic gas cooler. The other three will be using a hybrid CO2/R448A system with an adiabatic gas cooler and heat reclaim technology.

“There’s no straightforward solution for replacing HFC equipment,” said Mike Ellinger, Principal Program Manager of Engineering, Compliance & Sustainability at Whole Foods Market, in the NASRC statement. “The FRIP funding will allow us to test several innovative approaches and the results will inform our strategy for existing stores in the future.”

Both the Costco store and the Stater Bros. store will be using transcritical CO2 systems, the former with heat reclaim, the latter with an adiabatic gas cooler.

“NASRC’s assistance was critical in obtaining the FRIP funding,” said Jay Schick, Refrigeration and HVAC Buyer at Costco, in the NASRC statement. “We hope to see the program grow in the future as this is key to accelerating our transition from HFC refrigerants.”

In addition to the grants, FRIP awardees will participate in data sharing and service workforce development activities, further addressing barriers that are slowing the adoption of natural refrigerants in the US. NASRC said it is supporting the implementation of these activities as part of their AIP Pilot.

Launched by California Cooling Act

FRIP, managed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), was established in 2018 under the California Cooling Act (SB1013) to help grocers defray the higher up-front cost of natural refrigerant systems. FRIP is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that supplies billions of cap-and-trade dollars to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FRIP funding was not renewed in the California 2021 fiscal year budget. “NASRC is advocating for the program to receive additional funding in the future to support full or partial system replacements in existing stores,” said the NASRC statement. “There will be opportunities to submit comments in support of renewed FIRP funding later this year.

Designed to support FRIP, NASRC’s AIP program, launched in 2020, is a no-cost platform through which NASRC coordinates incentive funding for natural refrigerant projects in California grocery stores.

NASRC plans to expand the AIP program beyond California. “Given the upcoming federal HFC phasedown, there is a need for national funding support to aid the transition,” said Danielle Wright, NASRC Executive Director. “That’s where we’re looking next.”    

The funding ALDI receives through FRIP supports our continued dedication to natural refrigerant technology.

Dan Gavin, ALDI US

Author Michael Garry