Posting in Cities
Investment will help promote use of thin-film solar technology; double the locations where the retailers uses solar power.
I was just down in Charlotte, North Carolina, over the weekend, where it seemed like I drove by at least two Walmart stores every time I went out in the rental car. So, the announcement at the retail giant plans to use thin-film solar technology at between 20 and 30 new sites in California and Arizona caught my eye.
According to the plan, Walmart will invest in thin-film solar technology from SolarCity, which will design, install, maintain and own the systems themselves. The goal is to install enough solar capacity at each of the targeted locations so that renewable energy generates between 20 percent and 30 percent of the total energy needs for the site. The total capacity we are talking about is 22.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy annually.
Although thin-film won't be used for the entire installation, the company's decision to use it is significant because the manufacturing footprint for thin film -- from a sustainable resource consumption standpoint -- has less of an impact than the impact of using other solar technologies.
Here's the rationale for the investment, according to a statement by Kim Saylors Laster, who is Walmart's vice president of energy:
"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. 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."
For perspective, Walmart already supports 31 solar installations in California and Hawaii, so this will almost double the number of sites where the retailer relies on solar as a renewable energy source.
Sep 20, 2010
Good for them. However, what is the loss of output over time? We were working on thin film at BP Solax in the late 90's. We stopped when we couldn't past a 10% drop in output yearly. That doesn't allow a long enough useful life to pay for itself. Have they defeated this problem?
These are great news and I hope other businesses replicate the model. What about Home Depot or BestBuy? Couldn't these two brands alone make some investments on this green energy technology as well?
Notice how Walmart is using solar energy in Arizona and California. As a for profit business, they are using a technology where it may actually work. Here in Pennsylvania, solar technology has to get much more efficient to make it a good bet.
I think the real benefit here isn't as apparent. What is the problem with many renewable sources? Cost. Most of us don't have it in our homes because it just isn't practical. So how do new technologies like this become practical? Big money (big business, the wealthy, etc.) buy it and use it. So what is the real impact of Walmart making this move? One, it gets a real market test. If it really does save them money they will roll it out to more and more stores. Two, if it meets the needs of point one, then as it gets used at more and more stores then we will see two things happens. First, more companies will enter the market of making and selling solar technology. Second, the cost of solar energy products will go down. How I love the free market! Would your Intel PC be as powerful if Intel didn't have to compete with AMD? Or for those of us using AMD like myself, would I have the option for a 45W AMD dual-core desktop processor if Intel weren't competing with AMD? (Looking forward to when I can afford to upgrade to the quad-core, but my three year old 45W processor is still doing fine). And when you look at all this green tech, would you really have this thin solar tech if someone didn't think that a lower environmental impact might be a selling point (and if that means less materials were used to make then perhaps cheaper production somewhere down the line too)?
I am happy to see a large company like Walmart, willing to use this technology, both to help their bottom line and expand the awareness of the medium so others can get onboard. It should be a win-win solution, as anything that cuts down on energy consumption will cut down on power generation and pollution.