New report: Illinois ranks 5th nationally for big box stores’ rooftop solar potential

Media Contacts

Chicago – Big box roofs have big solar potential in Illinois, according to a new report from Environment Illinois Research & Education Center and Frontier Group. Solar on Superstores: Big Roofs, Big Potential for Renewable Energy finds that the combined roofs of Illinois’s big box stores could generate roughly 3,333 gigawatt-hours of clean electricity each year. That would be equivalent to generating enough energy to power 313,000 average American homes, which places Illinois 5th in the country for solar energy potential on big box stores.

“Big box stores aren’t just places to shop. They are also places that can make our environment better,” said Paloma Paez-Coombe, Associate with Environment Illinois. “Right now, thousands of store roofs and parking lots have no solar panels installed. We’re missing out on a great opportunity to produce clean, renewable energy right here in Illinois. That needs to change.”

The report also finds that installing solar on big box stores can provide numerous benefits to Illinois beyond just the environment. These include a more resilient energy grid, cost savings for electricity consumers and cleaner air quality. For high-profile brands such as Walmart, Target and The Home Depot, installing solar panels is a difference-making opportunity in local communities. For that reason, Environment Illinois Research & Education Center, along with its national partner Environment America Research & Policy Center, launched a campaign in 2021 calling on Walmart to install solar panels on all of its viable roofs and parking lots by 2035.

“Big companies like Walmart have the chance to shine in the much-needed renewable energy transition,” said Wade Wilson, who runs the Solar on Superstores campaign for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “There are 184 Walmart locations in Illinois. Each store has a big, flat, unobstructed roof, which is ideal for generating solar energy. We know this would be a win for the environment and for business, and that’s why we’re calling on Walmart to go big on solar.”

Along with providing national and state data, the report recommends a number of public policies for states to pursue. These include extending state-level solar energy tax credits, championing community solar programs and streamlining solar permitting by leaning on tools like the Department of Energy’s SolarAPP+

“Illinois has the potential to keep leading the way in clean energy, and our potential for installing solar on superstores is a great example,” said Paez-Coombe. “With a combination of smart public policy, corporate action and grassroots advocacy, we can capitalize on the immense big box solar potential in Illinois and make our state, our country and our world a better place.”