Green groups call on Target to go solar

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Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

AUSTIN – 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 Texas said today.

“Target has made progress on solar,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “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, which powers 10 to 30% of each facilities electricity requirements.

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. In Texas alone Target has almost three million square feet of roof space among 148 stores that are suitable for solar installations.

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

“As a mom who’s really worried about what global warming and pollution will mean for my four month old son when he grows up, I want to do business with companies who are a part of the solution,” said Julie Montgomery, a Target shopper in Austin. “Target has started to make investments in solar, but I expect more. I like Target and I’d love them even more if they put solar on all their stores.”

Using existing roof space on all of Texas’s big retail chain stores and shopping centers could increase Texas solar capacity by 15 fold, reducing climate-warming carbon pollution by 4.5 million metric tons annually—equivalent to the energy consumed by 668,000 household yearly.

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 Texas businesses a total of $584 million annually on their electricity bills.

In addition to calling directly on Target and other major retailers to install solar panels on their roofs, Environment Texas and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club urged local governments to adopt policies to help facilitate rooftop solar, including solar-ready requirements in building codes and solar financing programs.

“Right here in Texas, commercial solar at locations like Target could be offsetting the need for peaking gas plants, saving on their electric bills and helping make our grid resilient against extreme weather by taking advantage of something we have loads of — sunshine,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director at the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “With new policies like commercial PACE loans — available right here in Travis County — incentives from some utilities like Austin Energy — and the extension of the federal tax credits, Target and other big box stores are uniquely positioned to move our clean energy economy forward here in the Lone Star State.” 

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