When it comes to wasted solar potential in the United States, there is no bigger culprit than your local superstores. Did you know that the average Walmart Supercenter is 182,000 square feet? That’s a lot of solar real estate.
Now if you were to take that number and then multiply it by the 4,743 Walmarts in just the United States, you would get 30.9 square miles of Walmart. That’s eight square miles larger than Manhatten. And that’s just one brand of superstores in the US.
When you consider all of the benefits adding solar panels to these large-scale stores would be, it begs the question, why aren’t they all doing it?
The Benefits of Installing Solar Panels
Much like a residential area, solar panels can help supplement the electricity bill of a business. And when it comes to electricity bills, superstores have some of the biggest.
Walmart is estimated to spend over $1 billion each year on electricity. Installing solar panels could cut that bill in half, and there are real-world examples to prove it.
Have you ever gone to an IKEA? If so, you might have noticed an abundance of solar panels, and that is because 90% of all IKEAs in the US have solar panels installed.
They aren’t just on the roofs as you can even see them in the parking lot providing shade for your cars.
A Baltimore IKEA was the first store to add solar panels to its parking lot, and by doing so, it saved that store 57% on its electricity bill.
Now IKEA is not going to use the same amount of electricity as a Walmart. But in terms of size, they are comparable. Of course, electricity bills are not the only concern these larger chains have to worry about.
They also have to look at emissions.
The only two developed nations that do not have a carbon tax are the US and Australia. That means in virtually every other nation these chains operate in, they are paying for their emissions. These solar panels can help offset those costs.
So Why Don’t These Superstores Actually Install Solar Panels?
Cheaper electric bills and offsetting emissions sound great on paper, but there’s a big catch to this.
It costs a lot of money and time to refit the thousands of superstores in the US with solar arrays. And many speculate that this is the key factor behind larger rollouts.
Although, the real factor may be the actual construction of the buildings.
Large corporations that have built thousands of stores essentially have a blueprint that all of those locations share. Some areas will see slight deviations to account for the region, but for the most part, they are identical including the roof.
Focusing on solar installation would potentially change how their roofs are designed. It’s a major consideration to make that could raise construction costs and times significantly.
That said, some superstores are certainly expanding their solar capacity on-premise, or at least trying to.
Solar Installation Is Happening
Despite the costs and difficulty of the switch, change is coming.
When it comes to Walmart, they actually partnered early with Tesla to fit their roofs with solar panels. However, it didn’t go well. Walmart actually sued Tesla over the solar panels and had the 240 stores equipped with them removed.
This was because 7 of the installations spontaneously combusted.
Nonetheless, Target has over 500 locations with solar panels. And those locations see a reduction in electricity bills by 15% to 40%. Home Depot started out by converting 50 rooftops to accommodate solar panels.
And that’s just a few of the most popular superstores. While it’s not widespread, it is happening.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.