Walmart’s Solar Strategy

Via Silicon Beat, a look at Walmart’s rooftop solar strategy:

Walmart's Solar Strategy

Walmart has about 4,500 stores in the United States (which includes retail stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers).

That’s a lot of big, flat roofs: perfect for solar PV. Many stores are 80,000 to 120,000 square feet in size; some are as large as 180,00 square feet.  To date, Walmart has installed solar panels on about 200 of its stores.

Last week, Walmart announced that it was working with SolarCity to install solar panels on 12 stores throughout Ohio. (yes, Ohio!) The stores are located in Mason, Xenia, Greenville, Austintown, Middletown, Franklin, Youngstown, Toledo, Milford, Loveland, and two systems in Cincinnati.

SiliconBeat caught up with David Ozment, Walmart Senior Director of Energy, to find out what’s driving the company’s rooftop solar strategy.

“What’s driving our solar efforts is our over-reaching sustainable goal to be served by 100 percent renewable energy,” said Ozment in an interview. “We’re using solar, wind and fuel cells. Where we can make solar work financially, we’re using solar.”

(Ozment said that while 100 percent renewable energy is a goal, Walmart hasn’t set a date by which this will actually be accomplished).

The cost of solar has dropped significantly since Walmart first began installing solar on stores along the West Coast. Ohio is Walmart’s first solar project in the upper Midwest. The company is also powering 31 of its sites with Bloom Energy fuel cells and has a 1 MW wind turbine at its distribution center in Red Bluff, California. A store in Kansas has 100 percent of the interior lighting powered by LEDs; the retail giant is also looking at installing charging stations for electric vehicles.

Walmart has its share of critics, including the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which argues that the company’s energy and efficiency and renewable projects are far too small given the scale of the company’s operations. And while Walmart talks a lot about this 100 percent renewable, right now they are only at 4 percent.

“It’s impossible to grasp how big Walmart is,” said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self -Reliance, based in Minneapolis. “Walmart has been sophisticated in terms of how it uses sustainability to improve its public image. As a share of its overall size, its use of renewable energy is actually quite low.”

VoteSolar points out that Walmart is the nation’s #1 corporate solar customer, both for capacity and number of stores, followed by Costco, Kohl’s and Ikea.

We don’t usually think of Ohio, where natural gas is displacing coal, as being a strong solar state. But FirstSolar still manufactures in the Toledo area, and Ohio has an Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (their version of a Renewable Portfolio Standard) that mandates 12 1/2 percent renewable energy by 2025. Ohio is one of the few states with an RPS with a “carve-out” for solar: 0.5 percent of electricity sales must be from solar by the year 2024, and 50 percent must be developed in state.

“Ohio is green and getting greener,” said Bill Spratley, Executive Director of the non-profit organization Green Energy Ohio. “We make the solar and are the sleeping giant in the Midwest. This commitment by Walmart is a huge statement.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2013 at 3:27 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
As potential uses for building and parking lot roofspace continue to grow, unique opportunities to understand and profit from this trend will emerge. Roof Options is committed to tracking the evolving uses of roof estate – spanning solar power, rainwater harvesting, wind power, gardens & farms, “cooling” sites, advertising, apiculture, and telecom transmission platforms – to help unlock the nascent, complex, and expanding roofspace asset class.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy. Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation. He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”