Retailers Going Solar

Big box retailers are making a big push into solar, covering their empty roofs with panels and taking advantage of new alternative financing schemes.

Big box retailers are making a big push into solar, covering their empty roofs with panels and taking advantage of new alternative financing schemes. With their power generation skyrocketing–and carbon-footprint shrinking–corporate America might just be leading the charge into clean energy. Here are the top seven retailers that are turning their roofs into power plants.

Walmart

Solar Capacity: 65,000 kw
Number of Paneled Stores: 144
Percent of total: 3

Walmart usually goes big—and solar is no exception. As part of its “100% renewables” goal, the mega-retailer has embarked on an aggressive solar effort, and many of its stores are now get 30% of their power from the sun. The company buys power from other businesses that erect the panels on Walmart roofs. By the end of this year, it’s slated to have as many as 200 systems up and running. With rising energy prices, said Kim Saylors-Laster, Walmart’s VP of Energy, “One of our focuses is to reduce our costs so we can pass those savings onto our customers.”

Macy's

Solar Capacity: 16,163 kW
Number of Paneled Stores: 41
Percent of total: 5

In 2010, the Macy’s solar installation in Goodyear, Arizona, claimed the title for the largest single-rooftop system in the United States. The Fortune 100 retailer has focused most of its solar efforts in California, installing power-purchase-agreement systems in 26 stores that generate about half of its total output.

Ikea

Solar Capacity: 21,495 kW
Number of Paneled Stores: 39
Percent of total: 79

The Swedish retailers holds the crown for the highest percentage of solar-equipped stores – and unlike many other retailers, they buy and build the panels themselves. “From a practical standpoint, it allows us to reduce the cost of our electricity,” said Joseph Roth, the company’s US spokesman. “We can do good business by being a good business.”

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Costco

Solar Capacity: 38,900 kW

Number of Paneled Stores: 62

Percent of total: 14

Together, Walmart and Costco generate more solar power than the entire state of Florida. And though it has the second highest solar capacity in the private sector, it doesn’t tend to talk up its success. Moreover, the company actually sells home solar panel kits to customers through a partnership with manufacturer Grape Solar, a consortium of Chinese businesses.

Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

Kohl's

Solar Capacity: 36,474 kW
Number of Paneled Stores: 123
Percent of total: 11

The home products giant takes the bronze medal for solar capacity. It increased its investment in panels 25% this year, and like other firms, focused its efforts in California. By the end of this year, it will have covered about 30 more of its large stores with solar panels, which will supply as much of 50% of their energy needs.

Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

Staples

Solar Capacity: 10,776 kW
Number of Paneled Stores: 35
Percent of total: 2

Staples partners with SunEdison to erect its panels, and though its efforts are just getting started, it has claimed one major success: the biggest solar system in the state of Maryland. The 8-acre field, still under construction, will come under a 20-year power purchase agreement, cost between $2 and $3 million, and create about 100 construction jobs.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Walgreens

Solar Capacity: 8,163 kW
Number of Paneled Stores: 134
Percent of total: 2

Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, has increased its number of solar installations by over a third this year, focusing its expansion in Ohio. It’s also one of the companies with the longest standing commitment, and started building the systems as early as 2005.