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Wal-Mart goes green with Gelcore chips

Replacing fluorescent tubes with LEDs in its refrigerator display lights throughout 500 US stores is expected to shave $2.6 million off the retailer's annual electricity bill.

US retail giant Wal-Mart has announced itself as an early adopter of LEDs for general lighting applications with plans to install the technology throughout 500 of its stores.

Instead of using conventional fluorescent illumination, the company will install LED-based lighting developed by Gelcore in many of its refrigerator display units.

According to Wal-Mart, the installation will help to cut energy usage by up to 66 per cent in stores where the LEDs are used, aiding the company's plan to cut its overall energy use by 30 per cent.

Savings for the 500 stores where the LEDs are used should amount to $2.6 million annually, although that figure is something of a drop in the ocean when compared with Wal-Mart s latest quarterly profit of nearly $3 billion.

Until recently, Gelcore was half-owned by compound semiconductor device maker Emcore, but in August Emcore sold its stake to joint-venture partner General Electric (GE) for $100 million in cash (see related story).

GE has also entered into a "strategic alliance" with Japanese GaN LED manufacturer Nichia.

The LED initiative should extend well beyond the 500-store plan, too. Wal-Mart owns more than 6500 shops across the world, including the Asda chain in the UK, and claims to be committed to investing "up to" $500 million annually on energy-efficient technology.

"It s our hope that one day all our reach-in refrigerated display case lighting will use energy-efficient LEDs," said Wal-Mart VP Charles Zimmerman.

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