Wal-Mart, which has put environmental initiatives at the center of cost-cutting and image improvement efforts, said Thursday that it will open a supercenter prototype today that uses 20 percent less energy.

The store, located in Kansas City, Mo., uses a heating and cooling apparatus that reclaims refrigeration-generated heat through loop piping systems, among other technologies. A second so-called high-efficiency store is to launch this spring in Rockton, Ill.

Wal-Mart implemented many of these features in stores in McKinley, Tex., and Aurora, Colo., that the retailer opened in 2005, and uses as a laboratory to test environmentally friendly technologies such as waterless urinals and wind turbines.

“We are learning a tremendous amount from our experimental stores,” said Eric Zorn, president, Wal-Mart Realty. “This new supercenter is where we really get to put what we’ve learned into practice, and we’re excited to reach a 20 percent energy reduction so quickly.”

Wal-Mart president and chief executive officer H. Lee Scott in 2005 set a goal of developing a store that would be 25 to 30 percent more energy efficient by 2009. The retailer has been criticized for an environmental track record that includes violations of the Clean Water Act.

Wal-Mart has added energy-saving technologies to some 70 stores opening across the U.S. this month. These units use LED lighting in refrigerated cases, lights on motion sensors and other technologies in an effort to cut energy use, the company said.

The world’s largest retailer has put conservation and sustainability at the center of a multifaceted campaign to improve its reputation.

This story first appeared in the January 19, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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