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Retail giant completes major solar electric installation

Walmart has completed its largest solar power project at its Apple Valley distribution centre in southern California.

The 5300 ground-mounted solar electric panels cover 7 acres and have total capacity of 1 MW. The facility is part of a solar power pilot project that Walmart first announced in May 2007, to purchase solar PV systems for 22 Walmart stores, Sam’s Club locations and distribution centres in California and Hawaii.

In April 2009, Walmart said it would expand its solar initiative to double its use of solar PV in California, adding solar installations at 20 Walmart facilities over the next 18 months.

“The completion of the solar project at the Apple Valley distribution centre marks another important step to achieve our goal of being supplied 100% by renewable energy,” says Scott Kubicek, General Manager of the distribution centre. “Increasing the use of solar energy is a benefit for the environment and makes business sense.”

As part of its company-wide sustainability goals, Walmart has committed to sourcing 100% from renewable energy and creating zero waste.

Earlier this month, Walmart completed three other solar projects in the California communities of Paramount, Baldwin Park and Highland. The combined impact of the expanded state-wide solar initiative will generate 32 GWh of green power, as well as provide 20-30% of each facility’s total electricity.

“Walmart’s effort to expand and accelerate its solar power initiative programme here in California demonstrates their commitment to sustainability,” says Mary Nichols of the California Air Resources Board. “These kinds of projects create green jobs, reduce costs for businesses by lowering power bills, and protect the environment.”

Walmart stores have 200 million customer visits each week at 8000 retail stores under 53 different banners in 15 countries. With annual sales of US$400 billion, Walmart employs 2.1 million associates around the world.

In May 2007, Walmart announced a purchase of solar electricity from three solar providers: BP Solar, SunEdison and PowerLight, a subsidiary of SunPower. A pilot project determined solar viability for its stores and the company has completed 20 solar installations which, in 2008, generated 7 GWh of renewable energy.

In April 2009, Walmart entered a solar development agreement with BP Solar to install PV panels on additional Walmart facilities in California by 2011, and the expansion will generate 16 GWh of green power each year.

Early last year, Walmart started buying green power generated from wind turbines as part of a four-year power purchase agreement with Duke Energy. The electricity will supply 15% of Walmart’s total energy load in 350 Texas stores and other facilities.

The power is generated at a 90 MW wind farm in Notrees, Texas, which generates 226 GWh of green power each year. Walmart’s purchase represents one of the largest purchases of green power among retailers, and ranks the company as third among retailers and 15th among national companies using green power, according to the EPA’s Green Power Partnership rankings.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Wind power