The solar potential of warehouses and superstores explained

Where is the best place to install solar, especially the large scale solar that we'll need in order to meet our energy needs?

Clean energy

Tim O'Connor | TPIN

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Solar energy in America is growing. In 2021, America produced enough solar energy to power 15 million homes – 15 times as much as we produced in 2012.

But given that solar could power our country many times over, we are still just barely scratching the surface of our solar potential. The sooner we tap that potential the better it will be for our health and our environment. 

One of the best place to put the large scale solar that we’ll need is on existing rooftops. In the video below, I explain the rooftop solar potential of big box stores and warehouses. 

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of existing surfaces that could host solar panels on the roofs of America’s big box stores, shopping malls, warehouses and distribution centers. These flat, open, sunny roofs are perfect places for solar panels. 

What are the benefits of putting solar on roofs?

Putting solar on roofs reduces the need for transmission lines, protects open space, and when coupled with battery storage, can provide power even when the grid is down. You can read more about the environmental case for rooftop solar here

What’s the solar potential of superstores? 

The United States has more than 100,000 big box retail stores, supercenters, large grocery stores and shopping malls. These roofs have the collective potential to generate enough electricity to power nearly 8 million average U.S. homes. You can read more about the solar potential of different stores and different states in Environment America Research & Policy Center’s report, Solar on Superstores.

What’s the solar potential of warehouses? 

The United States has more than 450,000 medium and large warehouses and distribution centers. One average-size warehouse could produce enough energy to power 40 average U.S. households. Collectively, putting solar on the U.S.’s warehouses could provide enough electricity to power more than 19.4 million households per year. You can read more about the solar potential of America’s warehouses in the report and see how much electricity your state could get from solar on warehouses in the report, Solar on Warehouses

What’s the solar potential of warehouses and superstores combined?

If all warehouses and superstores went solar, they could produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 27 million households. That’s 22% of all the households in America.

So, while putting solar on superstores and warehouses won’t solve all of our energy problems, it’s certainly a start.  And if the owners of these large rooftops go solar, it will help bring down the cost of solar for everyone else. And it would save open spaces because we wouldn’t need as many large scale solar installations on the ground. 

How do we realize the potential of solar on superstores and warehouses?

The potential for building solar infrastructure on warehouses and superstores is huge, but getting warehouse and store owners and operators to consider it and then commit to doing it, won’t necessarily happen on its own. It will take research, advocacy and engagement from everyday Americans to convince leading retailers like Walmart, FedEx and others to lead the way. You can take part by signing a petition asking FedEx to go solar here.  


Johanna Neumann

Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America

Johanna directs strategy and staff for Environment America's energy campaigns at the local, state and national level. In her prior positions, she led the campaign to ban smoking in all Maryland workplaces, helped stop the construction of a new nuclear reactor on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and helped build the support necessary to pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which set a goal of reducing the state’s per capita electricity use by 15 percent. She also currently serves on the board of Community Action Works. Johanna lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family, where she enjoys growing dahlias, biking and the occasional game of goaltimate. 

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