Wal-Mart has fought against negative press regarding its mega-retail stores, competitive practices and even the way it treats is employees. However, one news story that doesn’t get a lot of press is Wal-Mart’s efforts to go green. For the past 3 years, Walmart has quietly been working with Environmental Defense Fund to promote thin film solar technology. Since 2007, the retailer has funded solar research and development to create thin film photovoltaic cells with real-world applications.
And Wal-Mart is starting with its own retail outlets. The new thin film solar panels have been installed in California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Another 20-30 Walmart stores in Arizona and California are slated for solar panel installation, as the corporation aims to go 100% green. The thin-film solar panels will be manufactured by First Solar and MiaSolé.
Solar panels are being installed at Walmart’s California and Arizona in locations in part because of ample sunshine, but also because these states offer generous solar incentives and rebates. Thin film solar panels have been chosen because they are less expensive than “regular” PV solar panels, since they require less silicon and other materials. They are easy to install and maintain, and are usually more efficient (they convert more sunlight into solar electricity) than their bulky counterparts.
What to expect from thin film solar installed at Wal-Mart:
- New solar panels installed at the proposed Walmart locations in California and Arizona will generate more than 22.5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each year
- The solar panels will offset 20-30% of the energy requirements of each retail outlet store
- The environmental impact will be the equivalent of taking over 3,000 cars off the road
And its just the beginning of Walmart’s solar efforts, which will have an impact on the way all retailers do business. Kim Saylors Laster, Walmart VP of Energy states:
“By leveraging our global scale to become a more efficient company, we are able to lower our expenses and help develop markets for new technologies. Developing and incorporating new renewable energy sources, like thin film, reduces energy price risk and aligns very well with our commitment to solving business challenges through technology.”
With over 8,000 stores in the U.S. alone, Walmart can definitely lead by example if it continues installing solar panels across its properties.