The world’s largest retailer Walmart has finished the rooftop solar installation at its San Diego store, the 100th project completed so far in California.
Last year, Walmart committed to extending its rooftop solar portfolio to more than 75 percent of its California stores (approximately 130) by the end of 2013.
Installer SolarCity, which handled the San Diego project, is handling installation, management and maintenance for 70 of the 100 completed projects. Each project creates an average of 48 contract solar jobs, says SolarCity.
This latest installation raises Walmart’s solar capacity to 62 megawatts (MWs) across approximately 150 stores; it could have up to 90 MWs across 1,000 locations by the end of 2020, reports Bloomberg.
That means almost one-quarter of Wal-Mart’s US stores would use solar eight years from now.
In California, the solar installations will handle 10-30% of each facility’s total electricity needs. The combined output of the systems is estimated at 70 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually.
One of Walmart’s three overriding sustainability goals is to be supplied by 100% renewable energy, although it doesn’t set a time frame for when that should happen.
Right now, the retailer gets about 4 percent of its power from renewable sources, reports Bloomberg.
Walmart began piloting solar installations in 2008, targeting states where utility rates are particularly high such as California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Ohio and Connecticut.
The decision about whether to install renewable energy is made on a store by stare basis, Marty Gilbert, director of energy at the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company, told Bloomberg.
“The more we get involved and commit to volume, the more the prices come down for the technology,” says Gilbert. “Prices for solar panels, fuel cells, wind turbines to some degree, they are all approaching grid parity.”
Walmart is also installing fuel cells and wind turbines, including a 1.1-MW turbine scheduled to be operational Red Bluff, California, by the end of August.
Aside from its renewable energy projects, Walmart has moved aggressively to promote sustainable business practices across the retail supply.
In August 2011, the retailer took preliminary steps toward measuring produce suppliers. Last year, it also implemented a new waste reduction strategy across 4,400 US sites. The California pilot sites for the new policy were able to reduce landfill waste by more than 80%.