Large, flat spaces are some of the most perfect environments for solar panels – they’re almost always fully exposed to the sun and there’s little competition for using the space. With more than 100,000 big box structures – including retail, grocers, supercenters and malls – totaling nearly 5 billion available square feet of rooftop space, grocers and big box stores are taking advantage of generating clean energy by harnessing the sun’s rays.
Upscale grocer Wegmans partially powers three New York-regional store locations, two offices, one warehouse and an organic farm with solar power, and the company recently installed solar panels that are expected to last up to 25 years and generate a combined 2.5 million watts at peak. It’s hard to imagine those numbers – by comparison, that’s the equivalent of annual electric usage for 268 houses.
The roof of the grocer’s Rochester office building has 2,000 solar panels up top, which Wegmans tells Progressive Grocer are expected to produce almost enough power for one month’s worth of electricity for that structure annually.
A March 2016 report released by Environment America and the Frontier Group says solar energy collection has increased more than 100-fold during the last decade, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the United States can conceivably generate enough rooftop solar electricity to satisfy nearly 25 percent of the nation’s electricity demand.
The Environment America and the Frontier Group report offers these figures:
- Rooftops of the U.S’s big box stores and shopping centers could host 62.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic capacity – that’s equal to the electricity total used by more than 7 million average U.S. homes.
- The 10 big box companies with the largest amount of retail space in the U.S. – Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears (includes KMart), Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Costco, and TJX (includes Marshall’s and TJMaxx) – have enough rooftop space to host approximately 17 GW of solar capacity.
- If 62.3 GW of clean solar power was installed on big box stores, it would cut global warming pollution by nearly 57 million metric tons annually – that’s equivalent to taking nearly 12 million passenger vehicles off the road.
- Electricity produced by rooftop panels on big box stores and shopping centers could offset the annual electricity use of these buildings by 42 percent, saving these businesses $8.2 billion annually on their electricity bills.
Is your company installing solar on rooftop? Have an example from your market? Sound off in the comments and share your story.