Target making inroads on solar power, but Environment Rhode Island “expects more”

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Environment Rhode Island Research and Policy Center

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Bronte Payne, [email protected], 617-747-4327

Providence, Rhode Island – 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 Rhode Island said today.

“Target has made progress on solar,” said Bronte Payne, Clean Energy Associate with Environment Rhode Island. “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, 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 already has nearly 350 installations across the country.

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 4,000 football fields. Target has 3 stores in Rhode Island.

“We’re thrilled that solar costs continue come down” said Kat Burnham, Program Coordinator with People’s Power and Light. “This, along with generous federal tax benefits and Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Growth program, makes now a great time for consumers of all kinds to adopt solar. Expanding solar also creates jobs and invests in a clean energy future.”

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.

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 $24 million annually on their electricity bills in Rhode Island.

“As Big Box Retailers face continued online retailing competitive pressures, solar energy provides a great opportunity to lower costs by reducing energy bills. Adoption of a solar implementation strategy provides significant financial benefits to Big Box Retailers, especially in the State of Rhode Island” said Anthony Baro of E2SOL, LLC. 

In addition to calling directly on Target and other major retailers to install solar panels on their roofs, Environment Rhode Island has urged government policies to help facilitate rooftop solar, such as net metering and third-party financing.

In Rhode Island, the state and local utility offers one of the best financial corporate incentives available nationwide to help its businesses to gain access to low cost solar options. Some of the most important incentives, noted by Anthony Baro, include cash grants, low interest financing, opportunity to net meter and sell power to the utility at favorable terms for 20 years. These incentives combined with a Federal Investment Tax Credit for solar energy and 5-years Accelerated Capital Depreciation Tax Credit make the implementation of a Solar development very affordable and a sound financial investment. 

“Superstore roofs are perfect locations for solar panels. They are mostly flat and almost always fully exposed to the sun,” said Payne. “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.”