January 3, 2007 11:19 AM PST

Wal-Mart readies large-scale move into solar power

Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores is thinking big about solar power.

The company put out an RFP (request for proposal) last month to solar electric suppliers and expects to receive responses early this month, according to a representative. The move is part of a long-term plan to convert to renewable energy sources.

Wal-Mart is keeping the details of the proposal under wraps as the process is still ongoing.

However, one person who saw the proposal said that if completed, it could amount to a significantly large installation--on the order of 100 megawatts of power over the next five years.

"To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California--the largest single corporate solar installation in history--is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size," wrote Joel Makower, a clean-technology consultant who saw the proposal but is not bidding on it.

Makower said the Wal-Mart proposal called for a system that could be replicated across its stores in five states and make use of available roofing space.

Wal-Mart has set up experimental stores in McKinney, Texas, and Aurora, Colo. These stores are already using renewable power sources, including solar and wind.

"We will continue to use the learnings from those stores to find ways to achieve our renewable energy goals in our other stores across the nation," said spokesman Kory Lundberg.

Corporations take a shine to solar
Although Wal-Mart's bid may not result in any investment, the move is significant as an indicator of growing corporate interest in sustainable practices and technologies.

Wal-Mart experimental stores

Installing solar power is a well understood--and potentially visible--way to use renewable energy. Aided by government incentives such as tax breaks, solar electric systems are becoming more cost-effective as solar companies devise new technologies and target specific markets.

Google is using a flat-panel solar power system installed by a subsidiary of Energy Innovations, a company that specializes in solar systems for flat roofs like those found in office parks.

Microsoft, too, has gotten into the solar game. Last year, it equipped its Silicon Valley headquarters with more than 2,000 solar panels capable of generating 480 kilowatts at peak capacity.

Electronics manufacturer Sharp last year started operation of a plant in Kameyama, Japan, which is capable of generating 5.2 megawatts of power through solar photo voltaics.

Renewable energy is central to Wal-Mart's environmental efforts as well. The company has a vice president of corporate strategy and sustainability, Andy Ruben, and its corporate policy is to reduce its "carbon footprint" and greenhouse gas emissions.

Its three specific, long-term environmental goals are: using 100 percent renewable energy; creating zero waste and selling products from sustainable resources.

In a speech in October of last year, Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott provided more detail on the company's short-term goals (click for PDF), including a commitment to invest $500 million a year in energy efficiency and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott said the company intends to reduce greenhouse gases from its retail locations around the world by 20 percent in the next seven years.

In the next four years, he said the company is working to develop building prototypes that will be 25 to 30 percent more energy efficient and produce up to 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

(Clarification: Google is using a subsidiary of Energy Innovations, not the parent company, for installation of its solar panel system.)

See more CNET content tagged:
renewable energy, solar energy, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., RFP, proposal

18 comments

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Go Walmart!
I am not a big fan of Walmart. The stores are too big, they stock
a TON of junk, the employees are not very helpful and the
lighting hurts my eyes. That's not to mention their various
nefarious business practices.

But I will give credit where credit is due. It is great to see the
country's largest retailer look to go solar. Such a move is good
for the environment, will bring down the prices of solar for
consumers, bring a lot of press to this issue and save them
money in the long run.

I was also heard on NPR yesterday that they are going to really
start pushing compact florescents hard in order to get
customers buy these energy saving bulbs.

I never would suspect I would say this but: Way to go, Walmart!

Now can you work on paying your employees a decent wage?
Posted by hal Summers (80 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wal-Mart's CFL Push
<blockquote>
<p>"I was also heard on NPR yesterday that they are going to really start pushing compact florescents hard in order to get customers buy these energy saving bulbs."</p>
</blockquote>

According to Ann Law's post, both Walmart and GE have launched "energy smart" plans to promote the use of CFL's, which are reported to use 75% less energy.

Her post is here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.bizmology.com/2007/01/19/seeing-cfls-in-a-new-light/" target="_newWindow">http://www.bizmology.com/2007/01/19/seeing-cfls-in-a-new-light/</a>
Posted by Daysha at Hoovers (1 comment )
Link Flag
Fantastic!!!
That's enough energy to support nearly 90,000 homes. It's really great to see a big company actually doing something positive for the environment.
Posted by jp10293847 (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nice, but WM needs permeable surface sans asphault....
"Instead of asphalt, permeable surfaces are made of stones laid
out in various patterns with gravel between them. Below the
bricks typically sits several feet of gravel.

The gravel filters out the oil, gas and gunk from cars and trucks,
cleaning the water before it enters the ground.

Proponents say their permeable system will absorb every drop of
water that falls on it, even during the heaviest storms ?
eliminating all runoff.

In addition, it is packed with micro-organisms that feast on all
the grit and grime that falls on it.

While the costs are about 20 to 30 percent more than asphalt,
the parking lot will conceivably last for half a century, unlike the
five- to 10-year life span of asphalt driveways, lots and roads.

Because the water is completely absorbed by the permeable
surface ? no matter how hard it rains ? this approach makes
ditches, drains and sewer pipes unnecessary.

That means that in many cases, after a few decades ? or sooner
depending how quickly the asphalt is replaced ? a permeable
surface will prove cheaper than asphalt."

See:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dailyherald.com/search/searchstory.asp?id=265227" target="_newWindow">http://www.dailyherald.com/search/searchstory.asp?id=265227</a>

From:
New ?asphalt? really better?
New surface preserves aquifers, slows runoff and is cleaner,
proponents say

By Patrick Garmoe
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Monday, January 01, 2007
Posted by libertyforall1776 (650 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nice but
For the love of god....some people are so negative. Walmarts are big....and they are everywhere. The total electric bill for all walmarts probably is more than New York City.

If they put these things up on all of their stores it would be a huge boost to solar energy and the enviroment. Sure your "permeable" surfaces are great to....buts let just take a moment and appluad Walmart for doing some good for this planet we live on.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
5 Megwwatts from a Solar Plant. Pretty good
That's about how many Megawatts from a regular electrical plant. If it's cost effective why use nuclear?
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To answer your question...
Wal-mart proposes to install 100 MW of solar power in total (spread over many sites). A typical nuclear or thermal plant produces around 3000 MW (i.e. 30x as much energy) at a single site. Wal-mart's move is a good start, but it's going to take a lot more than this to make a major impact on our dependence on coal and nuclear.
Posted by jp10293847 (25 comments )
Link Flag
diversion? Good Neighbor while being Bad
-A great many people do not consider WM a good corporate friend; this is self serving to take advantage of Fed Tax breaks to increase profits.
-RFP prob specifies "non-union" labor preferred.
-How ironic that WM is now pushing this while continuing to deny workers health insurance or allowing them to unionize to bargain for benefits such as health insurance while sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars in profits.
-Seemingly a good neighbor on one hand with solar energy initiatives while being cruel to low wage employees who must work 2 jobs to support their families because of WM's caps on the number of hours worked each week.
Posted by eeemang (217 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You know...
1) It's in the best interest of WM to increase profits. In case you've forgotten, it is a capitalistic entity in a capitalistic country

2) Have you worked in a union shop lately? Both my parents did &#38; both my wife and I do, and I can tell you, unions aren't what they used to be or were intended to be. I'd take non-union labor over union labor any day of the week

3) Sure, employees may be denied health insurance, etc. Who the hell says they have to work there. Perhaps I'm crazy, but anytime I've felt I needed better compensation, I CHANGED JOBS!! What a freakin' concept...

Oh, &#38; solar power is good for the environment :-)

Later, Komrade
Posted by orphu (109 comments )
Link Flag
Cost effective green energy
While this looks great on the surface (and I do applaud Walmart for considering it), there are alternatives to solar cells that are much more cost effective. While it's not as "pretty" as a row of solar cells, focusing sunlight into a sterling engine will generate power for a much lower cost per kwatt. Wind powered generators also produce electricity at a lower cost per kw. As well as power their stores, Walmart can also provide products to the masses. Have you ever seen a solar oven? On a sunny weekend, you can grill up some burgers or hot dogs in a flash with one of these (no more charcoal, lighter fluid, greenhouse fumes). Need to recharge your cell phone? You can do it with solar. It's products like this that will enhance their reputation as a green company along with powering their stores.

Hey, cnet, how about a story on solar technology for the masses... solar ovens, phone chargers, solar radios, pc chargers... what's out there today?
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wal Mart is EVIL
First, wal mart broke federal anti-trust laws in order to kill off all competition in local markets.

Now, wal mart squeezes its workers and suppliers, even paying such low wages that Walmart workws in many states are also receiving food stamps and medicaid.

Wal mart has moved millions of american jobs overseas, if they could figure out a way to import $10 a day chinese workers to install all that solar power collection, they would.
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wrong-Wrong_Wrong
If, and that is a BIG if, that were so Walmart would have been called to the bar of justice for the crime. So having disposed of the first big lie the next is Walmart has many workers who do not receive food stamps and medicaid. They get paid by what they are worth which would mean this carrier of falsehoods would receive no pay at all. And finally conjecture about importing $10 a day people is just showing how ignorant this writer ac actually is. Disaco=legend shows a complete lack of intelligence to expect people to accect stupid lies as the facts.
Posted by richelles (1 comment )
Link Flag
power-tower over the whole parking lot
set up a clear vinyl tent over the whole place,
including the twenty acre parking lot. At the top, a turbine.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower</a>

Benefits:

1: simplicity

2: "indoor parking" -- no longer will walmart
shoppers have to risk getting wet btwn their
cars and the door

drawbacks:

1: unknown how a huge 10mil clear plastic sheet
will handle midwestern winds and microbursts
Posted by minitrue (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wal-Mart & Solar Power
Great news, great article, great writer (he is my son, what else can I say?)
Posted by franswas (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wal-Mart readies large-scale move into solar power
When Wal-Mart makes their decision to install solar energy on their store locations, they should consider contracting with local solar installers instead of working with the mega-installers who are not rooted in those communities. I believe that this would be in keeping with Wal-Mart's business philosphy.
Posted by Jerry Sorgento (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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