MERRIAM, KS—Wind power? Yawn. Solar power? So 2012. The latestsustainable source of heating and cooling large stores and shoppingcenters is in the ground itself: geothermalenergy.

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IKEA has just completed the undergroundgeothermal work for a 359,000-square-foot store here whichwill make it the largest building with geothermal heating andcooling in either Kansas orMissouri. The store, which will open in Fall 2014," target="_blank">will incorporate othergeothermal work in its construction.

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The Kansas City-area unit will be IKEA's secondin the United States to use this energy source; a store inCentennial, CO, opened with geothermal in 2011. The retailer has some 50 locations with the technology worldwide, part ofa corporate effort to become energy independent by 2020. (IKEA alsouses solar panels around the globe and wind turbines in Europe,Canada and the United States.)

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IKEA isn't the first retailer to use geothermal in the UnitedStates. Walgreens opened a store with geothermalheating and cooling in Oak Park, IL, in 2010, thefirst in its sector to use the technology in a retail store, andalso utilizes the technology in itsfirst “net-zero” store in Evanston, IL. Shoppingcenters in the United Kingdom andTurkey have utilized the technology in malls, aswell, including West Quay Shopping Center inSouthampton, England, and Meydan UmraniyeShopping Center in Istanbul.

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Retrofitting existing centers with this technology doesn't seemall that practical: the IKEA project necessitated drilling 180holes six inches in diameter and 600 feet deep to house the pipesto circulate the heat-transferring liquid around the store. But itseems like yet another alternative to investigate as store andlimited new shopping center development continue.

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