New report: Michigan ranks 12th nationally for big box stores’ rooftop solar potential

Media Contacts
Josh Chetwynd

Wade Wilson

Ann Arbor – Big box roofs have big solar potential in the Great Lakes state, according to a new report from Environment Michigan Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group. Solar on Superstores: Big Roofs, Big Potential for Renewable Energy finds that the combined roofs of Michigan’s big box stores could generate roughly 2,494.4 gigawatt-hours of clean electricity each year. That would be equivalent to generating enough energy to power 234,300 average American homes, which ranks 12th in the country.

“Michigan can make a major impact by embracing big box solar,” said Wade Wilson, a report co-author who leads the Solar on Superstores campaign for Environment Michigan Research & Policy Center. “Right now, we’re missing out on a great opportunity to produce clean, renewable energy where it’s used. That needs to change. Putting solar panels on the roofs and parking lots of big box stores will be a big win for Michigan’s environment.”

The report also finds that installing solar on big box stores can provide numerous benefits to Michigan 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 Michigan Research & Policy 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 Wilson. “There are 117 Walmart locations in Michigan. 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, streamlining solar permitting by leaning on tools like the Department of Energy’s SolarAPP+ and championing community solar programs. The third recommendation is especially important to Michigan, with a bill in the legislature aiming to make solar more accessible.