Walmart now has more than 180 renewable energy projects in operation or development around the world and generates 89 megawatts (MW) of solar across 215 locations, according to a report last week by the Solar Energy Industries Association. This is enough to power 22,250 U.S. homes and is more than is produced in 38 U.S. states.
Earlier in 2013, Walmart partnered with SolarCity to install solar on another 60 stores in California, part if the company’s goal to have solar power on 75 percent of its stores in the state. The company also is testing other projects, such as micro wind, large-scale wind farms, solar water heating and solar thermal to maximize the renewable energy potential of each location.
In March, the company announced that achieved its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent in all facilities built before 2005 a year earlier than expected.
“When we find something that works — like solar — we go big with it,” the company’s website says.
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Most of Walmart’s projects are done through power-purchase agreements, where third-party developers install, own and operate the systems on Walmart rooftops. Walmart locks in inexpensive long-term rates to buy back the electricity and takes credit for the green energy.
While Walmart’s embrace of renewable energy is notable, it still has a long way to go. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, renewable energy accounts for only 4 percent of the company’s total electricity use. Given Walmart’s unparalleled position as a global supply chain leader, it is uniquely positioned to influence the widespread adoption of solar energy, along with other renewable sources. Imagine if the company drew 50 percent or more of its power from renewable sources? It could be a real game changer.
Walmart is not the only global retailer pursuing a renewable energy future. Costco and Kohl's produce 47 MW and 45 MW from renewables, respectively. IKEA, besides generating 38 MW of its own, recently announced that it will begin selling residential solar panels at its stores in the United Kingdom, an initial step in its plan to make renewable energy mainstream worldwide.