Clean Power

Published on March 11th, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers


Whole Foods Plan To Solarize 100 Stores With Solar Electricity Boosts NRG & SolarCity Share Prices

March 11th, 2016 by  

Whole Foods Market announced this week signing agreements with SolarCity and NRG Energy to install rooftop solar units at up to 100 stores and distribution centers. This quickly boosted the solar companies’ share prices, indicating that investors are starting to understand the competitiveness of solar electricity.

Whole Foods NYC shutterstock_242183221

Under the terms of this agreement, New Jersey–based NRG Energy will install the units at up to 84 locations in 9 states, according to a joint statement from the two companies. California-based SolarCity will then install the rest of the units, said Whole Foods spokeswoman Blaire Kniffin.

The companies have not disclosed the locations of the stores that will receive the rooftop solar units.

According to SolarServer, Whole Foods plans to increase the production of solar power and offset the need for conventional grid power while helping its stores to save money.

Whole Foods reports currently having rooftop solar installed at 20 stores. Whole Foods has 439 stores in the US, Canada, and Britain.

Optimally, a store’s rooftop solar unit can generate about 5% to 20% of the annual electricity a store needs, said a spokesperson.

SolarCity, of which Elon Musk is chairman, will install roughly a fourth of the supermarket chain’s 431 locations with solar panels. NRG Energy will provide panels in up to 84 of those 100 locations. News of the partnership has bumped SolarCity’s shares up 3.68%.

EcoWatch reports Whole Foods has a solid history concerning green initiatives: “The upscale grocer has taken several impressive green initiatives in recent years, including green building certifications, sustainable seafood, banning plastic bags, and transitioning to compostable cutlery and food packaging. As for their renewable energy portfolio, Whole Foods was the first major retailer to offset 100 percent of their energy use with wind energy credits.”

“SolarCity will custom design each solar power system to maximize the amount of grid power offset and expects to begin installation this spring. [Whole Foods] will also save money with the new solar installations by purchasing power from SolarCity at a discount to current electricity costs, locking in low solar energy rates for years into the future,” the solar providers shared in a joint press release.

The press release also noted these solar power systems will place Whole Foods Market within the top 25 corporate solar users in the nation, citing data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Image: Whole Foods in New York City via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • ROBwithaB

    If this is going to be SolarCity’s new business model, I might even buy some shares.
    Commercial installations are going to be big, mark my words.

  • ToddFlach

    It is estimated that the total roof space on all flat-roofed retail buildings in the USA would produce 63 GW peak electrical output if it were all covered with PV panels. This is significant, it is cost-effective, and it most certainly will be realised in the next 10 years.

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    • vensonata

      Where is that estimate to be found? I think the production is higher. The reason is that if only 30% of floor space is available as rooftop then that is 1000 sq miles. An old estimate was that all U.S. electricity could be produced by 10,000 sq mile pv array. Because efficiency has gone up to 25% that could have shrunk to 6000 sq miles. 1/6 of that would by 1/6 of 4000Twh. 666TWh which would require about 400 GW of PV. So about 6 times higher than your estimate. However my estimate all hinges on roof space accuracy and that is my uncertainty x factor.

      • vensonata

        I came across a NREL estimate of 300GW for commercial roof and the same for residential. They had factored in shading etc and 18.5% efficiency on panels. That was done in 2010, efficiencies have exceeded expectations. The projection was for 2030.

      • ToddFlach

        The 63 GW is for big-box stores only, and was reported on this website:

        • Frank

          And obviously doesn’t include the parking lot.

          • egriff5514

            I’m (sadly) addicted to the TV shows in which people bid for abandoned storage units…
            I’ve never seen any of them with a solar PV installation, though they all seem to have flat roofs!
            Seems to me an easy way to make money/offset costs – stick a panel or two on. If anyone wants to turn this idea into a profitable business, feel free.

  • David Shafir

    I’d very much appreciate a clarification re the following:

    Somebody told me that solar panels aren’t very eco-friendly because 1) they require rare earth minerals and 2) they aren’t recyclable, or there’s no law obliging the manufacturers to recycle them, so it’s not being done (recycling fees would make them even more expensive).

    Thank you.

    • Omega Centauri

      I’m not privy to the currently used practices regarding rare element usage in panels. A few years back it was the use of silver which was going to prevent scaling. Silver was used for electrical connections within the cells/panels. But its mostly been replaced with something else. Probably the rare earths (if they are used) is for something like transparent electrical conductors (which avoid shading of part of the panels reducing efficiency). What we’ve seen is that PV has a choice of different materials for these specialty parts. Its always a design tradeoff between cost and benefit. If the scale of the industry starts to affect the price of some material resource (i.e. making it get more expensive) something else will be substituted soon.

      As regards recyling. Remember that he industry is growing exponentially, doubling roughly every two years. And panel lifetime is typically thirty years or longer. That means that only one out of several thousand panels ever manufactured has reached its end of life age. There just haven’t been many panels to recycle yet. I think it is being done, but at this stage of the industry the need is still years away.

      • David Shafir

        Some people are concerned that since the PV technology evolves rapidly, people will soon want to replace older, less efficient panels with newer, better ones, and the old ones will be trashed…

        • Ronald Brakels

          There is not much economic incentive to replace functioning solar modules with more efficient ones, and even if for some reason people do replace functioning modules they are still worth money if they work and so there is no point in scrapping them. If they work, you can sell them on ebay. Even if they don’t work, they still have value as recyclable material. This doesn’t mean that the entire panel will be recycled, but it is not broken, non-toxic, glass like material that is threatening to kill millions of people, it’s global warming. Recycling 100% is a task we can afford to leave to the next generation for now.

          • m tatum

            When a friend, who had been living off the grid for over 10 years, replaced panels, the installer bought the old ones for his own use.

        • Omega Centauri

          I would agree with Ron. The main cost -especially for smaller scale residential is the mounting etc plus soft costs -paperwork plus inspections. Then we have the issue that the size/shape has changed. The older panels are (I think 60cells the newer 72), and the racking/mounting likely would have to be moved.

          I strongly suspect these memes were invented by anti-solar political groups on the right, and widely propagated to spread fear uncertainty and doubt about solar.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Most solar cells are made from silicon which is sand. There’s no shortage of that. They are typically doped with phosphorus and boron, neither of which are toxic or in short supply.

      A small portion of solar cells are made from cadmiium telluride. Cadmium is toxic and telluride is mildly toxic, but together they form a stable compound that is not toxic. It can be eaten without harm (not that I recommend that) and does not leech cadmium or telluride if it is say dumped in landfill instead of being recycled.

      • Omega Centauri

        The CaTe panels I think have been exclusively used for large scale utility farms, which has been First Solar’s specialty. You cannot buy them for your roof.

        • Ronald Brakels

          They go on roofs, but I think big commerical installation roofs.

  • jeffhre

    Is this 100 stores in total or a new 100 + 20 existing.

  • Steve N

    I just looked up total square feet of commercial buildings in the US.
    87,000,000 – if we can get this ball rolling that is a lot of energy on wasted roofs.

    • Philip W

      I think all that space will be utilized soon. It just saves so much money that it is a complete and utter no-brainer.

      • nitpicker357

        A lot of those roofs are not suited to bearing much load. It’s only mostly a no-brainer.

        • Omega Centauri

          Commercial rooftops are often littered with stuff, like AC units, vents etc. A significant fraction of that roof area isn’t suited for panels. Its still a lot of panels that could be installed, but less than a simple back of the envelope computation would give you.

        • Philip W

          Hard to believe for me. Solar panels are not that heavy. If the roof can’t handle that, it can’t handle snow either.

          • Kraylin

            While you make a very valid point the problem in areas where the roof is built to withstand snow it now needs to withstand panels AND snow! Often times sadly things are built to minimum standards that don’t necessarily include the ability to add that much weight.

          • Philip W

            The good thing about snow is that you can ship it of the roof. If there is too much (wet) snow, that is necessary regardless of solar panels. Even the strongest buildings cannot withstand that much weight.
            Sadly those kinds of weather events will happen more and more due to climate change.

        • Ronald Brakels

          In Australia the greatest risk our roofs face is being sucked off. Now maybe it is different in places where there is a lot of snow. There snow loading might be the most important factor. But I would be certain that for most roofs in the United States the ability to resist being sucked off in high winds would be the most important factor in determining roof strength. For this reason roofs should generally be more than capable of bearing the extra load of solar panels because they need the extra strength so the wind won’t pull the roof off. And the extra weight of solar panels can make the roof more resistant to sucking. A professionally installed system should always take into account the effects of solar PV on both wind shear and suction.

    • vensonata

      Add another 3 zeroes to that. 87 billion sq ft. Now we are talking. 3120 sq miles of commercial floor space. Maybe 1500 sq miles of roof.

  • Bryan

    Solarcity is getting 16 of these 100 installs, wow I’m impressed.

    • vensonata

      Solarcity are getting 100 installs. NRG will get 84. According to the reference in the article to Zachs Equity Research.

      • vensonata

        Or perhaps it is like this. Solar City will do the 100 installs, 84 of them will use NRG panels. That is what is being said in the various releases.

      • Kraylin

        I didnt read the reference you are mentioning but in this article it contradicts itself making it somewhat unclear.

        This contract is for 100 locations, 84 which are to be installed by NRG. Then it goes on to say Solarcity will install at roughly 1/4 of Whole Foods locations. With over 400 locations 1/4 would be 100 or the entire size of this contract which allegedly only awards a few to Solarcity and the bulk to NRG.

        Something doesnt add up… The good news is Whole Foods is making a big step and I applaud them for that!

        • Glenn Meyers

          I will check on this incongruity

          • Glenn Meyers

            Theses are from the two press releases:
            “In total, WFM plans to retrofit up to 100 stores with rooftop solar. SolarCity, America’s #1 solar power provider, will deliver solar power services for many stores across the Whole Foods Market portfolio, in locations such as Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. SolarCity will custom design each solar power system to maximize the amount of grid power offset and expects to begin installation this spring. WFM will also save money with the new solar installations by purchasing power from SolarCity at a discount to current electricity costs, locking in low solar energy rates for years into the future. Once completed, these solar power systems are expected to place Whole Foods Market within the top 25 corporate solar users in the nation.”
            “PRINCETON, N.J. & AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mar. 8, 2016– Whole Foods Market, America’s healthiest grocery store, in conjunction with NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NRG), the country’s leading integrated competitive power company, plans to install rooftop solar at up to 84 Whole Foods stores and distribution centers across 9 states to generate renewable energy onsite. When completed and determined by final negotiations and analysis, the portfolio of solar projects has the potential to generate up to 13.8 megawatts (MW) of solar power.”
            WFM (does not state specifics)
            “AUSTIN, Texas (March 8, 2016) – Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM) is working with with national solar providers NRG and SolarCity to increase the number of rooftop solar units on the company’s U.S. stores. – See more at:

            My best guess on a Saturday morning goes this way:
            NRG Energy = 84
            SolarCity = 16

            I will follow up on Monday.

  • Harry Johnson

    Hopefully one day soon, corporations who don’t buy only clean energy will risk public shame and boycott.

    • Bryan

      You should be shamed because you still drive an ICE machine.

      • Harry Johnson

        No I don’t.

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