With the cost of installing these systems eased by tax incentives and grants, some retailers are convinced that, as the price of electricity rises over the next decades, solar power will pay off for them. Retailers' investments are occurring in states that have large system allowances and generous tax credits, such as California, Connecticut and New Jersey. Large retailers also are racing to beat a December 31st deadline to gain tax advantages for such projects.
With millions of acres of flat rooftop real estate at their disposal, retailers are well positioned to leverage the power of the sun via solar panel installations. Here is what some of the world's largest retailers are doing to go solar:
JCPenney: The department store recently unveiled plans for solar and wind power projects that will supply electricity to 10 stores and one distribution center in California and New Jersey. Producing more than 4 megawatts of clean electric power, the systems help avoid emissions of approximately 146,000 tons of carbon dioxide over their 30-year expected lifetime. The 10 pilot stores will also benefit from the installation of new energy-efficient lighting and advanced energy management systems that will help reduce energy consumption.
Kohl's: In August 2008, Kohl's expanded its solar program to its sixth state, Oregon, with plans to convert four of its nine stores to solar power. In addition to Oregon, Kohl's has solar projects underway in California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and Wisconsin. On average, solar panels provide about 25 percent of each store's energy. When complete, the four Oregon installations will collectively provide up to 900 kilowatts of power and are expected to produce up to 1 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year. In total, Kohl's has converted 43 locations to solar power and has plans to activate approximately 85 additional sites across its six-state program.
Macy's: The department store currently has solar panel located atop 18 stores. The department store retailer plans to install them on another 40 locations by the end of 2008. Combining solar power with energy efficiency upgrades such as high-efficiency lighting and HVAC systems and energy management systems is expected to reduce energy consumption by more than 24 million kilowatt hours annually, achieving an estimated 40 percent reduction in Macy's demand for utility-provided energy in those stores. Carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to be reduced by more than 195 million pounds over the lifetime of the systems.
Safeway: The grocery retailer has announced plans to put panels atop 23 stores. In 2006, Safeway in Pleasanton, Calif., signed a contract with the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) committing it to reducing its carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide it generates from energy consumption at its stores, warehouses and headquarters) by at least 39,000 tons, or 1.5 percent per year from 2007 through 2010, 6 percent in total. The baseline year of comparison is 2000, when Safeway produced about 2.65 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Staples: Last year, Staples unveiled the largest solar power installation in New England at its 300,000-square-foot retail distribution center in Killingly, Connecticut. The solar power installation was built at no capital cost to Staples. The 433-kilowatt DC commercial solar photovoltaic system is larger than a football field, covering nearly 74,000 square feet of roof space. The solar power system has the capacity to produce enough energy to power 14 percent of the distribution center or 36 homes per year. The project was made possible through the collaborative effort of Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which provided a $1.7 million grant for the project, and SunEdison, which financed the remaining costs of the project and designed and installed the system.
Tesco: Tesco aims to cut in half emissions from all new stores built between now and 2020. The retailer is saving energy in its stores - by hanging curtains on freezer doors and using better insulation, low-energy lighting and new refrigeration systems. By the end of this year, UK energy use per square foot will be half what it was in 2000. Last year, group carbon intensity per square foot of sales space fell by 4.7 percent.
Wal-Mart: Seventeen stores and distribution centers have solar panels in operation or are in the testing phase. The big box retailer plans to add additional solar panels to five more stores. Wal-Mart also is lighting its refrigerator cases with energy-efficient LEDs. It's store in Santa Ana, California has a 600-kilowatt solar panel installation that provides a third of the store's power.
Whole Foods: A typical solar installation produces and saves more than 2.2 million kilowatt hours over 20 years and results in more than 1,650 tons of CO2 emissions avoided, the equivalent of removing 440 cars from the roadways. In 2002, its Berkeley store became the nation's first major food retailer to introduce solar energy as its primary lighting power source. Other locations including its Brentwood, California store uses solar energy for 24% of its power source and its Edgewater, New Jersey store boosts an array of 14,000 square feet of solar panels providing more than 20% of the store's power needs.
For related stories on retailer's that are engaging in renewable energy programs see:
JCPenney Unveils Renewable Energy Programs