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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Walmart Adding Thin-Film Solar Panels On 20-30 More Stores


walmart solar panels photo
photo: Walmart

In continued efforts to deploy more renewable energy at its stores, Walmart announced today that it will be installing solar panels at an additional 20-30 of its stores in California and Arizona, opting at most of the locations to install thin-film solar panels rather than traditional crystalline panels.

Rather than owning the panels outright, Walmart has contracted with SolarCity, which will design, install, maintain and actually own the solar power systems, with Walmart benefitting from the total estimated 22.5 million kWh of electricity produced. At each location the panels are expected to provide 20-30% of the total energy needs of the store.

Currently, Walmart has 31 solar power installations at locations in California and Hawaii.

In its press release, Walmart touted the benefits of thin-film panels over traditional ones:

Thin film solar panels look similar to the traditional crystalline panels, but require fewer raw materials to manufacture, resulting in a smaller environmental impact over its life cycle. The Walmart projects are using both copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) and cadmium telluride thin film. The company's large scale on-site installation of CIGS could help further the development of this technology and bring it to market quicker, while use of cadmium telluride thin film could help make the case for other businesses to adopt the technology for on-site commercial use.

Buying Power Not Panels Can Reduce Risks
One thing to note: Walmart has been expanding renewable energy usage at its stores for a while now, so the announcement itself, while good, isn't entirely groundbreaking. What is worth paying attention to as a green trend, applicable to homeowners as well as businesses, is that even with it's huge size Walmart chose to have a third-party operate the solar power system, thereby eliminating some of the financial and technical risk of adding solar power, while still benefitting both practically and from a public-image perspective from using renewable energy.