Area Wal-Marts go solar

Wal-Mart today will reveal a major project that it has quietly pursued throughout 2012 — the installation of solar power arrays atop a dozen Ohio stores, including nine in the Dayton-Cincinnati area.

The installations occurred without any bother — or notice apparently — among customers, said Franklin Wal-Mart Supercenter manager Stan Miller.

Now that they’re all ready to produce power, the arrays are expected to increase the state of Ohio’s total solar power generation by 10 percent. Wal-Mart said the panels make it the state’s largest single solar power user.

The solar panels sit silently on the rooftops of the stores. To see them, you’d have to fly overhead or climb to the roof.

The Wal-Mart and Sam’s Clubs that installed the solar power systems are located in Mason, Xenia, Greenville, Austintown, Middletown, Franklin, Youngstown, Toledo, Milford, Loveland, and two systems in Cincinnati. More installations are coming to Ohio, but there’s no firm word on locations yet.

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The Franklin installation took about 30 days last spring, Miller said. The 1,807 southward-facing panels at the Wal-Mart at 1275 E. Second St. appear to take up about three-quarters of the roof. Wal-Mart said the work was done by SolarCity, a company with operations in 14 states that’s headquartered in San Mateo, Calif.

A breakdown from Wal-Mart shows the systems vary by size, but altogether the 12 solar installations with 20,287 panels will generate approximately six million kilowatt hours of electricity the first year of operation — enough energy to power more than 820 homes. The arrays are expected to supply approximately 10 to 15 percent of each store’s overall electricity use. In total, the systems could cover 11 football fields.

Mack Wyckoff, senior manager of renewable energy and emissions, said SolarCity owns and operates the systems but Wal-Mart will purchase the power. The arrays, he said, should either beat or match current electricity prices.

“Solar power makes sense for Wal-Mart, and it makes sense for Ohio,” said David Ozment, Wal-Mart senior director of energy. “We are committed to increasing the use of renewable energy resources, including solar panels, at our stores in Ohio and throughout the country.”

Bill Spratley, executive director of renewable energy advocate Green Energy Ohio in Columbus, praised the retail giant for leading the way.

“Wal-Mart’s installation of solar on 12 store rooftops is the largest solar commitment ever made by a retail business in Ohio,” he said. “At more than four and a half megawatts, it represents almost a tenth of all the solar installed in Ohio currently. It is exciting to see that Wal-Mart’s solar arrays will also eliminate 5,500 tons of CO2 or the equivalent of taking the emissions of 1,152 cars off the road each year.”

Wal-Mart said it aspires to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy at some time. At the moment, the company has 240 renewable projects underway worldwide.

In a survey last year, Wal-Mart topped the list of major national big box retailers installing solar, followed by Costco, Kohl’s and Walgreens, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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