US firms raise the roof for onsite solar power

10 Aug. 2009 by

An increasing number of multi-nationals are turning towards rooftop solar systems as a cost-effective means of hitting their environmental corporate social responsibility targets.

Walmart, which eventually aims to ensure that all of its energy is generated from renewable sources, has this week signed a deal with SunEdison to install rooftop solar systems at five of its stores in Puerto Rico, with the first one scheduled to become operational later this year.

Another 23 stores may follow suit in the country over the next five years, with each solar system expected to generate between 25 and 35 per cent of the buildings' electricity requirements. SunEdison will finance, own, build and operate the solar arrays over a 15-year period, guaranteeing the US retailer a long-term source of green power at a predictable rate.

Renzo Casillo, president and chief executive of Walmart Puerto Rico, said that the introduction of energy-saving strategies and equipment meant the company's stores were now 21 per cent more energy-efficient than they were in 2005, which was when it committed to improve its environmental performance.

"With this solar energy project, we'll continue to broaden our efforts towards our main objective and commitment of being supplied 100 per cent by renewable energy," he added.

Walmart has already installed other solar and wind-based energy generation systems at stores in various US states including California, Texas and Hawaii.

Other multi-nationals that have similar deals with rival supplier, SunPower, include JC Penney, the Gap, AT&T and Constellation Wines.

Meanwhile, FedEx Ground announced last week that it is working with BP Solar to build what it claimed would be the largest solar array in the US.

The system, which will sit on top of its distribution facility in Woodbridge, New Jersey, will generate 2.4MW or 2.6 million KW hours per annum, providing it with 30 per cent of its yearly energy requirement, the company said.

The initiative is FedEx's fifth solar project and its third initiative with BP Solar. The new array is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 1,867 metric tonnes each year, equivalent to taking more than 340 passenger cars off the road. The company is also building a 1.4MW solar array at Cologne/Bonn airport in Germany.