An indication of the long-term viability of solar power is how quickly corporate America has begun to put solar panels on their rooftops. Wal-Mart in particular has been leading the charge. According to a report last week by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the retail giant has more than 180 renewable energy projects in operation or development around the globe, generating 89 MW of solar across 215 locations, enough to power 22,250 American homes annually. One way to grasp how large that is, it’s producing more solar power than 38 U.S. states.
Wal-Mart partnered with the solar developer SolarCity earlier in 2013 to harness the Sun’s energy on another 60 stores in California, part of the company’s goal to have solar power on 75% of its stores in the state. In addition, the company is also testing other projects that include micro wind, large scale wind farms, solar water heating, and solar thermal to get the most potential out of a store’s location.
According to Greentech Media Research and SEIA, photovoltaic (PV) system costs are down 50% since the start of 2010 and in the last year alone, the cost to install a commercial installation has gone down 14.7% to $3.71 per watt.
Other companies are realizing the changes in solar economics and are starting to shift their energy production to solar and other renewable energy sources. Companies like Costco, Kohl’s, Apple, IKEA, and other mega-corporations are getting on the solar bandwagon and realizing that using PV saves money. Altogether, a total of 445 MW of solar capacity has been installed by the top 25 companies. Investments in solar energy by these companies are helping to create thousands of new jobs, drive down costs, and are improving the environment. IKEA has installed solar panels at about 90 percent of its US locations, and has set a very ambitious goal of 100 percent renewable energy in all its operations and is doing all it can to reach that goal.
Although Wal-Mart has made a powerful statement with their current solar capacity, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, renewable energy accounts for just 4 percent of the company’s electricity use. The company redefines global supply chains and has influence that few other companies and even governments have. They now have the opportunity to be a true leader in the solar field and make solar energy more affordable for all. We applaud Wal-Mart’s step in the right direction, but we hope that the company will make even more significant steps to create a sustainable energy future.
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Yoni is a Fellow at Mosaic working on their PR, marketing, and their mobile app. He graduated from Rollins College in three years in Political Science and International Business. He then spent three months volunteering in rural India where he met his fiancée. After attending Boston University’s Graduate Program in Energy and Environmental Analysis, he worked at a web startup for a year in Cambridge. He then left to start Climate Scores, a website dedicated in grading Congressmen on how they stood on climate change. He then worked at Ashoka as their lead strategist on targeting Gen Y donors. In his free time, he likes to read science fiction, play quality video games, and run.