Wal-Mart Launches Major Solar Power Project

Wal-Mart Launches Major Solar Power Project

Wal-Mart yesterday announced the results of a request for proposals to provide solar power to as many as 340 of its stores.

The company said it will purchase solar power from three providers, BP Solar, SunEdison, and PowerLight, for a 22 stores and a distribution center in California and Hawaii.

The project is the first step in determining whether solar power can yet be a viable solution to Wal-Mart's power needs. The original call for proposals covered as many as 340 stores, but the projects only made financial sense for these 22 stores. "The expectation was that this had to be good for both the environment and the business," Kim Saylor, Wal-Mart's VP Energy, told GreenBiz's Joel Makower. "We couldn't pay a premium for solar energy."

The company estimated that the total production from these 22 stores could be as high as 20 million kWh per year. When fully implemented, the aggregate purchase could be one of the U.S., if not the world's, top-10 largest ever solar power initiatives.

The solar power pilot project is a big step toward Wal-Mart's goal of being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy. Each solar power generating system installed can provide up to 30 percent of the power for the store on which it is installed.

By Wal-Mart's estimates, installing the solar power systems will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6,500-10,000 metric tons per year. "Pilot project stores are expected to achieve savings over their current utility rates immediately-as soon as the first day of operation," said David Ozment, director of energy for Wal-Mart.

SunEdison will provide the four solar power systems in Hawaii and four in California, while PowerLight and BP Solar will each supply seven systems in California. The systems installations are subject to receiving the appropriate permits and approvals in their respective states.

Wal-Mart will use the power generated by the solar panels onsite at each store and will also keep the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) the units produce, which is unique among most solar power purchases. Enabling Wal-Mart to maintain ownership of the RECs and its stores' environmental benefits is another important factor in allowing Wal-Mart to reach its goal of being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.