Retail juggernaut Wal-Mart disclosed plans today to outfit half of its Massachusetts stores with solar power. Twenty-seven stores would have solar panels and inverters installed, capable of generating 10.5 megawatts of electricity a year. Massachusetts aims to have a generating capacity of 250 megawatts of solar energy by 2017.
Wal-Mart's solar systems will be owned and operated by Greenskies Renewable Energy (Conn.); the company will sell generated solar power to Wal-Mart at an undisclosed rate, though it figures to be comparable, if not cheaper, than grid-based utilities. Wal-Mart says each store will generate enough power to cover 10-15% of its energy requirement. Similar deployments in California generate 20-30% of each store's needs. Each store in Massachusetts should produce about 400 kilowatts per year. The installation price is also undisclosed, as engineering planning has yet to be completed and each project still must obtain permits. This shouldn't be too hard, though, as the state strives to meet its 2017 goal. One-hundred five megawatts have already been installed in Massachusetts.
This article from the Boston Globe points out that Wal-Mart will generate enough energy to power 2,600 homes, which is all well and good, except that the energy won't be used to power homes. Wal-Mart's goal is to cut down on the cost of electricity, and by doing so cutting down on carbon emissions. It's hard to believe that the big-box king would have made the move were in not saving a significant amount of money as well.
The move does bode well for solar power in the Northeast. Wal-Mart originally went solar in sun-soaked California and Arizona. Installations in Massachusetts and New Jersey show solar can be viable even in less sunny areas, and, if Wal-Mart's solar plans succeed, will surely lead others to follow. More business would definitely be a welcome development for the hundreds upon hundreds of solar companies hunting for customers.