Wal-Mart going solar, in a potentially big way

Check out this entry by Joel Makower at his Two Steps Forward blog. According to Makower, Wal-Mart has issued a request for proposals to install solar PV systems on its stores in five U.S. states, with bids due on Jan. 5 and the winner expected to be notified Feb. 28.

He calls it “the largest procurement of solar ever proposed” and says it’s part of the retail giant’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over the next eight years. Wal-Mart is considering one of three options: 1) a direct purchase of the systems; 2) a SunEdison-type arrangement whereby a third party installs, owns and operates the systems and sells the clean electricity to Wal-Mart under long-term contracts; and 3) a leasing arrangement with option to purchase systems.

According to Makower:

Wal-Mart doesn’t mention a specific purchase size, but my sources tell me that the company could put solar on as many as 340 stores in the next few years. Assuming that each store utilized about 300 kilowatts of solar panels (it could be as much as 500 kilowatts), we’re talking roughly 100 megawatts of solar. To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California — the largest single corporate solar installation in history — is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size.

No doubt, this would be an impressive and, as Makower calls it, historic initiative if Wal-Mart follows through on even a fraction of these plans. The results of the RFP itself will be telling. And remember, this follows on previous commitments to being green and clean, including the purchase of wind power, the testing of hydrogen fuel-cell powered forklifts, and using more than 100 hybrid-electric vehicles in its corporate car fleet (as well as exploring the use of hybrid technology for its truck fleet).

2 thoughts on “Wal-Mart going solar, in a potentially big way”

  1. Walmart’s commitment to green energy is commendable given the current state of affairs with the recent report of the Ayles ice shelf breaking off of Ellesmere Island in Northern Canada. However good that action is it can’t come close to covering the amount of green house gasses that Walmart produces through long distance transportation of cheaply made products from China that have to be imported using diesel fueled freighter ships.

    Walmart could substantially reduce green house gasses by local manufacturing near their markets and cut down on the greenhouse gasses produced through long distance transportation of it’s products.

    How about it Tyler? Has there been a study of the savings in carbon emissions based on local production of consumer goods? Richard Heinberg, author of “The Party’s Over” and “Power Down” recommends non-corporate local production of all necessary goods for communities. Granted these would not have the value add of many products and some things simply could not be manufactured, like hi-tech electronics, but would provide for food, clothing and shelter. What’s your take?



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