Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon
Americana “big box” stores could host around 62.3 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity — enough to generate enough electricity to provide for the equivalent needs of roughly 7 million US households — according to a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center.
Considering that big box stores, grocery stores, etc, use roughly 5% of all of the electricity used in the US — and also the fact that there’s more than 4.5 billion square feet (cumulatively) of rooftop space on these buildings that is well suited to solar energy installations — such an approach to solar energy development has a lot of potential.
The potential is there for the US to meet roughly a quarter of its electricity needs through rooftop solar PV alone, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Here are some further details via a new press release:
* Installing 62.3 GW of clean solar power on America’s big box stores and shopping centers would reduce global warming pollution by nearly 57 million metric tons annually — equivalent to taking nearly 12 million passenger vehicles off the road.
* Producing electricity on rooftops, close to where the electricity will be used, reduces losses that happen during electricity transmission — losses that totaled an estimated 203 million megawatt-hours (MWh), or 5% of electricity sales in 2012. Solar power also reduces costs by producing the most electricity during the sunniest parts of the day, which are often when demand for electricity peaks. This helps utilities avoid firing up expensive, peaking power plants to meet the temporary rise in demand.
* Electricity produced by rooftop panels on big box stores and shopping centers could offset the annual electricity use of these buildings by 42%, saving these businesses $8.2 billion annually on their electricity bills.
* The 10 big box companies with the largest amount of retail space in the US — Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears Holdings (including Sears and KMart), Macy’s, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Costco, and TJX (including Marshall’s and TJMaxx) — have enough rooftop space to host approximately 17 GW of solar capacity on their retail stores, or nearly three quarters of the United States’ current solar PV capacity.
* By installing solar panels on two California stores, Costco reported savings of $300 per day on average over three months.
The report can be downloaded here.