Large stores can reduce emissions and save millions of dollars by installing solar panels on the roof.

As of February 2021, IKEA had 54 solar arrays installed in 90% of the United States.

Taking full advantage of the rooftop solar power potential of these superstores will generate enough electricity to power the average of about 8 million households, pulling 11.3 million petrol cars off the road. The report concludes that it can reduce global warming emissions by the same amount as.

For example, the average Wal-Mart store has a rooftop of 180,000 square feet. This is about the size of three soccer fields, enough space to support the equivalent of 200 households of solar energy.

“All rooftops in the United States that do not produce solar energy are wasted to break down fossil fuel reliance and associated geopolitical conflicts,” said Environment America’s 100% Renewable Campaign. Said Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of. He told CNN. “Now is the time to devote ourselves to local renewable energy production, and there is no better place than the roofs of large American superstores.”
Proponents involved in the Clean Energy Worker Training Program told CNN that the solar revolution at the Large-Scale Retail Store was a significant plunge for the community, spurring economic growth and pushing it to the limit. He says he will face the climate crisis that is causing disproportionate harm to the economy.

Still, only a small percentage of large stores in the United States have rooftop solar or solar canopies in parking lots, the report’s author told CNN.

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CNN contacted five of the top retailers in the United States (Wal-Mart, Kroger, The Home Depot, Costco, Target) and asked: Want to invest more in rooftop solar?

While many renewable energy experts point to solar as a relatively simple solution that helps reduce costs and reduce fossil fuel emissions, companies are looking at regulations, labor costs, and the structure of the roof itself. It points to some obstacles that hinder its widespread adoption, such as completeness. Passed.

Edwin Cowen, a professor of civil engineering and environmental engineering at Cornell University, said the need for this type of clean energy initiative is “arguably urgent” as the climate crisis accelerates.

“We are behind the eight-ball, to say the least,” Cohen told CNN. .. To do. “

What is a holdup?

According to Neuman, Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the United States, has an overwhelming potential for solar power. Wal-Mart has approximately 5,000 stores in the United States, with more than 738 million square feet of rooftop space larger than Manhattan and more than 8,974 gigawatts of time annually. According to the report, the possibility of solar power generation on the roof.

According to the report, it is enough power to power more than 842,000 households.

Wal-Mart spokesman Mariel Mesier told CNN that the company is involved in renewable energy projects around the world, many of which are not rooftop solar installations. Ability to produce more than 2.3 gigawatts of renewable energy.
According to Neuman, Environment America has met Wal-Mart several times and urged retailers to promise to install solar panels on roofs and parking lots. The company said it aims to raise 100% of its energy through renewable projects by 2035.

“Of all the retailers in the United States, Wal-Mart will have the biggest impact if we install rooftop solar in every store, and for us, this report shows how much impact they have. They emphasize what they can give. They make that decision. “

Environment According to the United States, as of the end of fiscal 2021, Walmart had installed approximately 194 MW of solar capacity in its US facilities and additional capacity in offsite solar power plants. 30% of electricity demand in each location.

Solar panels on the roof of Target Store in Inglewood, California in 2020. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, Target was ranked number one in onsite solar capacity in 2019.
According to the latest report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, Target was ranked number one in onsite solar capacity in 2019. Currently, there are 542 locations with rooftop solar, about a quarter of the company’s stores. A Target spokeswoman told CNN. A spokesperson said rooftop solar produces enough energy to meet 15% to 40% of the energy demand of the target property.

Richard Galanti, Costco’s Chief Financial Officer, said the company has 121 stores worldwide with rooftop solar, 95 of which are in the United States.

Walmart, Target, and Costco didn’t share with CNN what the biggest barriers to adding solar panels on rooftops and parking lots to more stores.

“I suspect they want a stronger business case to deviate from normal business,” Neuman said. [they] To use the building and think of it as an energy generator as well as rain protection, the business model needs to be changed a bit. “

The Home Depot, which has about 2,300 stores, is currently completing 75 rooftop solar projects, 12 are under construction and more than 30 are planning future development, said Craig Darcy, energy management director at the company. I am saying. Solar power produces about half of these stores. “On average, he needs energy, he said.

Darcy added that aging store roofs are a “major obstacle” to solar installations. If the roof needs to be replaced within the next 15 to 20 years, it makes no economic sense for the Home Depot to add a solar system. Today he said.

“The goal is to implement an economically attractive solar rooftop,” D’Arcy told CNN.

CNN also contacted Kroger, which owns approximately 2,800 stores nationwide. Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard says the company currently has 15 facilities (stores, distribution centers, manufacturing plants) and solar power plants. “Solar equipment feasibility” was the store’s ability to support rooftop solar equipment, Howard said.

Workers walk between solar panels installed on the roof of IKEA in Miami in 2014.  As of February, IKEA had solar installed in 90% of the United States.

Cowen, a professor of engineering at Cowen University, said solar power is already attractive, but different layers of labor costs, incentives, and regulations pose some economic challenges to PV equipment. May bring.

“For them, this usually means hiring a local site company that can do that installation that also knows the local policy. It makes sense for me because the cost has dropped enough. I think it’s another layer of complexity, but you’ll have to reopen the door to the existing building. “

Sean Casten, Illinois, co-chaired the House of Representatives’ Task Force on Electricity, saying the United States “could not provide incentives to those with the expertise to build these things.” .. According to Kasten, the power sector has made little progress on solar power because “our system is very disjointed” and has a complex regulatory structure.

“Why don’t we do anything economically meaningful? The answer is this terribly disjointed federal policy of subsidizing fossil energy mining and penalizing the production of clean energy. I wanted to build a solar panel on the roof of Walmart, but my biggest enemy would be a local power company because I don’t want to lose load.

“We could have done it decades ago, and if we did that we wouldn’t have been in this dire position for the climate, but we have more money in our pockets. It would be, “Kasten added.

Acts fairly on the climate

For Charles Callaway, head of the nonprofit WEACT for Environmental Justice, it’s easy to boost the rooftop PV capacity of large retailers. Especially if the company allows them to benefit the local community through installation work and sharing. Electricity generated later.

In any case, it will have a major impact on the suppression of the climate crisis and will usher in a just transition from fossil fuels-and it is feasible, Callaway told CNN.

A solar panel installed on the roof of the Costco store in Inglewood, California in 2021. Costco said it has a rooftop solar facility at its CNN95 store in the United States.
Residents of New York City have led a worker training program that helps train more than 100 members of the local community (mainly colored) to become solar installers. We have also formed a solar worker cooperative so that many of the participants in the training program can find employment. A tough market.

In the last two years, Callaway said it has installed not only solar panels on the roofs of affordable residential units, but also equipment that can generate 2 megawatts of solar energy at shopping malls in northern New York. Local installers are most beneficial because they know the community and local regulations best.

Studies suggest that the allergic season begins much earlier than usual and becomes much more intense due to the climate crisis.

“One of my big concerns is social equality. Access to renewable energy is in a fairly privileged position these days, and we need to come up with ways to not make it true.”

Jasmine Graham, Energy Justice Policy Manager at WEACT, said the possibility of building a rooftop solar in a large box superstore is that “these projects use local labor and pay general wages. It is promising only if the solar is used in some way. ” Community solar, etc. [utility] Billing discounts for people living in the same utility zone. “

After a UN report in late February warned that the window of action was closing rapidly, there is increasing pressure on world leaders to act urgently in the climate crisis.

Neuman believes that the United States can meet its energy needs with renewable energy, and all that is needed is the political will to make that shift and the inclusion of the community so that it is not left behind in the transition. Said.

“The faster the transition, the cleaner the air, the better the environment, the better the health, and the more comfortable the future for our children,” says Neuman. And even if it requires an investment, it’s an investment worth making. “

CNN’s Judson Jones contributed to this report.


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