New report shows why “big box” retailers should go solar

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Bobbi Wilson

Oregon could quadruple solar capacity through use of large retailer rooftops

Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center

Retail giants across the United States are increasingly meeting their electricity needs with the power of the sun. A new report released by Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center highlights companies that have already made strong solar commitments, and shines a light on the potential energy savings and emissions reductions if all superstores followed suit.

According to the Solar on Superstores report, the United States has more than 102,000 big box retail stores, supercenters, large grocery stores and malls with more than 4.5 billion cumulative square feet of available rooftop space on which solar panels could be installed. In Oregon alone there is over 400 MW of potential solar capacity from these vacant rooftops—that’s approximately four times the state’s currently installed solar capacity.

“The rooftops of big box stores are mostly flat and almost always have full sun exposure,” said Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center organizer, Bobbi Wilson. “Using this vacant roof space to generate pollution-free energy makes sense from both an environmental and an economic standpoint.”

The report states that on average, superstores consume 1,800 megawatt-hours of electricity and spend $190,000 on their electricity bill each year. Energy produced from rooftop solar panels could offset the energy use of these buildings by 42 percent, saving these companies $8.2 billion annually.

“Solar electric systems have proven to be great assets for profitable businesses with significant electricity costs and large rooftops,” said Thomas Brex, Director of Operations at Advanced Energy Systems, a Eugene-based solar installation company. “Business owners, financial officers, and CPA’s are pleased with the generous tax credits, bonus depreciation, non-competitive grant incentives, and savings on electricity that help the renewable energy systems pay for themselves in only a few years.”

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.

Familiar retail giants like IKEA, Walmart, Macy’s and Kohl’s have already begun installing solar on their viable locations, with IKEA making a commitment to produce more renewable energy than their electricity use by 2020. Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center hopes this report will encourage more retail stores to use their substantial roof space to generate clean electricity, saving companies money and reducing their carbon footprint.

Read the report here.