Environment America Research & Policy Center launches campaign to get Walmart to go big on solar

Media Contacts
Bronte Payne

Josh Chetwynd

Retail giant has made some progress but has capacity to be an industry leader on renewable power

Environment America Research & Policy Center

BOSTON —  Environment America Research & Policy Center launched a new campaign Tuesday calling on Walmart to publicly commit to installing solar panels on the roofs of nearly all of its more than 5,000 locations across America — and over the parking lots that surround them — by 2035.

“Walmart has built its reputation on getting customers what we need, at reasonable prices. Now the company has a chance to enhance that reputation by moving to protect customers’ health and quality of life,” said Susan Rakov, Chair of the 100% Renewable Energy Campaign at Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Walmart’s giant rooftops and parking lots are perfect places to generate clean, renewable energy, which will not only power the stores, but also clean up the air and create an emergency power source for the surrounding community. That’s real efficiency, and a service to all — just the kind of innovation that a smart retailer like Walmart should embrace.”

Walmart is the largest retailer in the United States, and 90 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of one of its locations. Based on a 2016 report from Environment America Research & Policy Center, Walmart could install approximately 5,844 megawatts (MW) of rooftop solar capacity, which is equivalent to the power consumed by 660,000 American households per year. 

In 2014, the company set a goal of installing nearly 500 on-site solar projects at U.S. Walmart stores, Sam’s Club locations and distribution centers by 2020. Through 2019, the company was the nation’s second-largest business installer of on-site solar panels, just behind Target. A commitment to put solar panels on nearly all of its stores, distribution centers and accompanying parking lots by 2035 would position Walmart as a national corporate leader in transitioning to renewable energy. 

“For more than 50 years, Walmart has known that success means being ahead of the curve. When it comes to protecting the environment, Walmart can continue to be at the forefront by going big on solar,” said Bronte Payne, Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Go Solar campaign director. “This company revolutionized retail in the United States in the 20th century, and it has the opportunity to be a key player in revolutionizing how the retail sector produces and consumes energy in the 21st.”

Solar panels on national big box grocery and retail stores create unique benefits for the environment, electricity customers and the large commercial businesses themselves. The advantages Walmart and other chains can deliver include:

  • Helping the environment. The rooftops of America’s big box stores and shopping centers could host enough solar capacity to generate the same amount of electricity needed to power more than 7 million average U.S. homes. Installing that much solar capacity on superstores would also reduce global warming pollution equal to taking approximately 12 million vehicles off the road.

  • Improving how we use our electricity grid. Producing rooftop electricity, which means creating power near where the energy will be used, reduces energy losses that happen during transmission. This means saving approximately 5 percent of all electricity transmitted and distributed in the U.S. between 2015-2019. 

  • Enhancing business bottom lines. Electricity from rooftop solar panels on the nation’s big box stores and shopping centers could offset these buildings’ annual electricity use by 42 percent, saving these businesses $8.2 billion annually on electricity bills.

As a part of this campaign, Environment America Research & Policy and its state affiliates will engage Walmart customers to encourage the company to commit to more solar. The group will also release a new analysis of the potential solar capacity of big box stores’ rooftops and parking lots. 

“Walmart’s slogan is ‘Save Money. Live Better’ and Americans know that living better means embracing renewable energy,” Payne said. “That’s why 9 in 10 Americans support expanding solar power. Let’s put the rooftops and parking lots of these big box stores to good use so we can tap into the power of the sun near where we live, work and shop.”