Target making inroads on solar power, but Environment New York “expects more”

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Heather Leibowitz

New York, NY – Target has pledged to put solar panels on a quarter of its stores, but the company could cut pollution dramatically and even save its customers money by putting panels on all of its nearly 2,000 rooftops in North America, advocacy group Environment New York said today.

“Target has made progress on solar,” said Heather Leibowitz, the Director with Environment New York. “But, just like the ads say, we ‘expect more,’ especially when the company has so much potential to cut pollution, reduce energy waste, and save money.”

To launch its campaign to get Target to go big on solar, today the group, together with its national federation Environment America, released a new analysis of the nation’s 96,000 “big box” retailers, shopping centers, and grocery chains and their capacity for and progress toward rooftop solar.

Target’s solar potential is second only behind competitor Walmart, which has already installed at least 142 MW of solar energy.

According to the latest data available summarized in the report, “Solar on America’s Superstores,” Walmart leads the pack in total solar panels already installed, followed by Costco, Kohl’s, and IKEA.

The Target chain has 240 million square feet of roof space suitable for solar in North America, the equivalent of six Central Parks.

“I love shopping at Target. I’d love it even more if I knew the store was cutting pollution at the same time,” said Sandra Erickson, a Target shopper in Brooklyn.

Rooftop solar on big box stores like Target is good for the environment, good for electricity consumers, and good for business, the report says.

Using existing roof space on all of the nation’s big retail chain stores and shopping centers could nearly triple U.S. solar capacity, reducing climate-warming carbon pollution by 57 million metric tons annually – the same produced in a year by 12 million vehicles. In New York, these large retailers could avert 1.7 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually if they used all their available roof space for solar panels.

Producing electricity on rooftops, close to where the electricity will be used, also reduces losses that happen during electricity transmission – losses which totaled 5 percent of electricity sales in 2012.

Rooftop solar is also good for business. Electricity produced by rooftop panels on all the big box stores and shopping centers analyzed in today’s report could offset enough electricity to save these businesses $8.2 billion annually on their electricity bills. Big-box stores, grocery chains, and shopping centers in New York could save $536 million dollars with rooftop solar.

In addition to calling directly on Target and other major retailers to install solar panels on their roofs, Environment New York urged government policies to help facilitate rooftop solar.

“Superstore roofs are perfect locations for solar panels. They are mostly flat and almost always fully exposed to the sun,” said Leibowitz. “We found 4 billion square feet of empty roof space around the country that can and should be put to better use capturing pollution-free energy.” 

(Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York, at rally to fight climate change.)