Walmart invested $10 million in a new solar project last year, aspiring to install panels on the rooftops and also the canopies of the parking areas on its California stores. The technical aspect of the project was undertaken by Sol Systems, and it is estimated that the total energy output will reach 6.5 MWatt. That should be enough to fully cover the electricity needs of stores in Burbank, Calexico, North Highlands, Perris, Placerville, Sacramento, and Wasco.
For Walmart, the largest retail store chain in the United States, operating a total of 11,443 stores as of January 2021, this project is just a pilot to test the waters and evaluate the actual benefits. If the retail giant was to implement similar systems across the country and even internationally, the cost savings could reach dizzying numbers. Of course, California is a sunny place, so it wasn’t selected randomly for this test, but other locations in the U.S. would easily qualify for similar projects.
In fact, this is exactly what Walmart is planning to do, as its current CEO has set a goal for 2035 to supply their global electricity needs solely through renewable sources. A zero-emissions target was set for 2040, so there’s something subsequent that goes beyond the current project but is being developed in parallel. Currently, Walmart’s operations around the globe are covered from renewable energy sources like solar and wind by 29%.
Inevitably, there are some downsides to having solar panels on parking lot canopies, namely static orientation, need for maintenance and cleaning which interrupts the services of the parking area, and also the introduction of the need for physical security to prevent theft of the precious panels. Even if all these are accounted for, the benefits from powering the stores this way far outweigh whatever drawbacks or additional requirements.