Walmart announced today it will expand its renewable energy efforts through lighter, lower cost thin film solar technology.
The company plans to add solar generating systems to another 20 to 30 sites in California and Arizona, and the majority of these locations will feature the new technology.
"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," said Kim Saylors Laster, Walmart vice president of energy. "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."
When complete, this project is expected to:
- supply up to 20 to 30 percent of the total energy needs for each location;
- produce up to 22.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy per year – enough to power more than 1,750 homes annually;
- avoid producing more than 11,650 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, equal to taking more than 3,000 vehicles off the road for a year;
- add to the 31 current solar installations Walmart has in California and Hawaii.
Thin film solar panels look similar to the traditional crystalline panels, but require fewer raw materials to manufacture, resulting in a smaller environmental impact over its life cycle. The Walmart projects are using both copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) and cadmium telluride thin film. The company's large scale on-site installation of CIGS could help further the development of this technology and bring it to market quicker, while use of cadmium telluride thin film could help make the case for other businesses to adopt the technology for on-site commercial use.
SolarCity, which will design, install, own and maintain the new solar power systems on Walmart locations, was selected through an RFP process spearheaded by Walmart and the national environmental group, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The goal of the RFP was to identify the most innovative solar technologies that would create benefits on three fronts—to the environment, technology, and financial viability.
In addition to the 500 green jobs the project installations will create or support in California and Arizona, these Walmart projects are also supporting green jobs at facilities in Ohio and California, where the majority of the thin film is manufactured.
"The combination of Walmart's market power and EDF's rigor could provide the scale and credibility needed to bring next generation solar technology more fully into the marketplace," said Gwen Ruta, vice president for corporate partnerships at EDF. "It's the kind of innovation we need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution."
Walmart is using a number of technologies around the world to make progress towards its goal of being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy. For example, in the U.S., Walmart purchases wind energy in Texas, and is testing fuel cells and small wind turbines. In Mexico, Walmart is buying energy from a local wind farm for 348 facilities and has installed solar panels on two facilities. In Canada, Walmart is testing geothermal, fuel cells, solar and wind, and is the largest corporate purchaser of low-emission power through a local provider of clean, renewable energy.
"Thanks in part to the economies of scale created by pioneers like Walmart, it's now possible for many American businesses and homeowners to adopt solar power and pay less than they currently pay for electricity from polluting sources," said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's CEO. "This project was made possible in part by financing from PG&E Corporation and National Bank of Arizona, as well as incentives from the APS Renewable Energy Incentive Program and the California Solar Initiative."