Wal-Mart to expand solar-power program in Calif.

Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores, as part of its commitment to accelerate and broaden its sustainability efforts, announced Wednesday it is expanding its solar-power program in California. The chain plans to add solar panels on 10 to 20 additional Wal-Mart facilities within the next 18 months. The program will be done in a power purchase agreement with BP Solar, San Francisco, which completed solar-energy systems on several Wal-Mart facilities in 2008.

The new initiative is in addition to the 18 solar arrays currently installed at Wal-Mart facilities in California. When combined, Wal-Mart’s total solar installations are expected to generate up to 32 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year, and avoid the production of more than 22,500 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions per year. The solar arrays are expected to provide 20% to 30% of each location’s total electric energy needs.

“Increasing the use of solar energy is the right thing to do for the environment and makes tremendous business sense, especially in these economic conditions,” said Kimberly Sentovich, Wal-Mart’s California regional general manager. “Thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership, California is an excellent environment for us to grow our investment in renewable energy and help create more green jobs for America.”

Under the PPA agreement, BP will finance, install and maintain the solar systems for Wal-Mart, which will have no upfront capital costs. The chain will purchase the clean energy produced by the system.

“BP Solar has been a great partner, and we look forward to accelerating our efforts to utilize more affordable renewable energy in our operations,” said Kim Saylors-Laster, VP energy, Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart said it will evaluate the feasibility of expanding the program to additional sites once construction of the newly announced sites nears completion. The company plans to take into account a variety of factors, including available locations, economic conditions, energy prices, as well as local, state and federal renewable-energy policies and programs.

Wal-Mart is also utilizing solar power in Puerto Rico, where the company is planning to outfit up to five stores with solar panels this year. It expects the project to expand to 22 stores in the next five years

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