The high cost of electricity combined with federal and state tax incentives are persuading some large retail chains that there is a future in using renewable energy. Here is an update of some of the most recent purchases:
In one of the largest investments of its type by a U.S. retailer, Wal-Mart Stores has entered into an agreement to help power hundreds of stores in Texas with wind power. The power will supply up to 15% of the chain’s total energy load in approximately 360 stores and other facilities in Texas.
The renewable energy will come from a Duke Energy wind farm under construction in Notrees, Texas. The farm is expected to begin producing electricity for Wal-Mart by April 2009.
“We’re purchasing renewable power at traditional energy rates,” said Kim Saylors-Laster, VP of energy for Wal-Mart. “The wind-power purchase will result in a significant decrease of greenhouse-gas emissions and aligns perfectly with Wal-Mart’s long-term goal of being supplied by 100% renewable energy.”
The project will provide roughly 226 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable power each year. By purchasing this amount of clean, renewable energy, Wal-Mart will avoid producing more than 139,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions per year.
The wind-power purchase serves as a complement to Wal-Mart’s solar program. In May 2007, the company announced its intent to equip up to 22 locations in Hawaii and California with solar panels.
Kohl’s Department Stores has expanded its solar program to a sixth state, Oregon, with plans to convert four of its nine stores to solar power. In addition to Oregon, Kohl’s has solar projects under way in California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and Wisconsin. The solar panels are expected to provide about 25% of each store’s energy.
When complete, the four Oregon installations will collectively provide up to 900 kilowatts of power and are expected to produce up to 1 million kWh of energy per year. During the 20-year life of the program, the solar energy produced is expected to offset 12.9 million lbs. of carbon dioxide.
Kohl’s is the largest retail host of solar power. In total, it has converted approximately 43 locations to solar power and has plans to activate about 85 additional sites across its six-state program. The company hopes to add more states to its growing solar program in the coming months.
J.C. Penney is undertaking solar-power projects to supply electricity to 10 stores in New Jersey and California, and a wind-power project for one distribution center in Nevada. The chain also announced plans to obtain Energy Star certification for at least 200 stores.Federal Tax Credit Extended
As part of the $700 billion economic bailout package passed by the United States Congress on Oct. 3, 2008, home and business owners installing solar-electric panels, small wind turbines, fuel cells or geothermal heat pumps can receive thousands of dollars in tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 extends and expands upon similar measures enacted in 2005 and 2006. for each alternative energy source, the IRS will credit up to 30% of the cost toward federal income tax payments.
The solar systems are financed, owned and operated by a third-party financier, from which J.C. Penney will purchase the solar-generated electricity under a SunPower Access power purchase agreement. The rooftop installations will provide immediate savings through lower energy costs and a long-term energy hedge for nearly 25% of the energy used at the stores. The 10 pilot stores will also benefit from the installation of new energy-efficient lighting and advanced energy-management systems that will help reduce their energy consumption.
In the wind-power project, Broadstar Wind Systems will install wind turbines at J.C. Penney’s 1.6 million-sq.-ft. distribution center in Reno, Nev.
REI has installed solar arrays on three stores in the San Francisco Bay area. The installations bring the outdoor apparel and gear retailer more than halfway to its goal of outfitting 10% of its stores with solar systems. REI is on track to complete solar-panel installations at five other stores: three in Oregon and two more in California. In all, 11 of the company’s 105 stores will feature solar power by year-end.
Combined, the installations are expected to generate a total of 1.1 million kWh of electricity.