CAMDEN, Maine — At the Hannaford Bros. supermarket here, locally sourced natural products don't end in the produce aisle.
One could look, for instance, in the store's heating oil tank, which over the winter began burning a biodiesel mix produced only a few miles down the road in Rockport. Biodiesel is a more environmentally friendly and efficient fuel than the No. 2 heating oil the store previously burned, according to the Scarborough, Maine-based retailer. Combined with heat recaptured from in-store refrigeration units, the Camden Hannaford stayed warm through a long Maine winter while producing less waste, and operating at a lower cost, than it had the year before.
For Hannaford, the decision to switch to biodiesel in Camden came down to balancing what often is a higher cost per gallon against longer-term savings in the form of reduced maintenance costs. The fuel used in the store is a mix of 20% natural agricultural sources (most often soybean oil) and 80% petroleum, known as B20.
“While the cost of the [biodiesel] product can be slightly more expensive than traditional oil, long-term maintenance expenses are lower,” Megan Hellstedt, Hannaford's environmental affairs manager, said in a statement. “B20 burns cleaner, resulting in less wear and tear on heating system components and fewer fuel filters and repairs. Additionally, since this fuel is cleaner-burning, there are fewer deposit buildups, which leads to better heat transfer and better efficiency.”
The Camden store was selected to receive biofuel based on the fact that its existing heat systems did not need to be replaced (the majority of Hannaford stores in Maine use liquid propane heat); its oil tank was located indoors (biodiesel storage can be tricky in cold places); and the presence of a local biodiesel producer/supplier in Rockport-based Harvest Fuel. According to George Haselton, co-owner of Harvest Fuel, the latter concern was an important one, given his desire to reduce dependence on foreign oil and shrink the “carbon footprint” he and his clients leave behind.
“Just burning alternative fuel doesn't make you greener. If you have to drive two hours in a truck to put the fuel in, your carbon footprint is even bigger,” Haselton told SN. “What makes this arrangement green is that the store is right down the road from our facility.”
The local connection also helps Hannaford receive better service, Haselton said, noting efficiencies gained as a result of more reliable deliveries and better equipment maintenance.
More difficult to quantify, but clearly an important component of the Camden store's transformation, was the energy brought to the project by J.D. Lloyd, a student at the University of Maine, Orono, who spent last summer interning in Hannaford's engineering department. Lloyd identified stores that would be eligible for alternative energies and connected the retailer with local suppliers. “He had a great passion for this,” Harrison Horning, Lloyd's supervisor at Hannaford, told SN.