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Walmart and Amazon Increase Solar Energy Use With Major Projects

Two of the world’s largest retailers, Walmart and Amazon, are taking solar energy seriously with new projects and ongoing commitments to the clean power source.

Walmart this week said it had reached an agreement with SunPower to have the commercial energy provider install solar systems at 19 stores and two distribution centers in Illinois. The project, a mix of rooftop and ground-mount solar arrays, is expected to account for 23 megawatts of power. Construction is targeted to begin in the first half of 2019.

Walmart said its commitment moves the company closer to its 2025 goal of supplying its global operations with 50 percent renewable energy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, the amount of anticipated annual carbon offset by this initiative will be equal to the amount sequestered by more than 24,000 acres of a U.S. forest in one year.

“Solar is a vital component of Walmart’s expanding renewable energy portfolio,” said Mark Vanderhelm, Walmart Inc. vice president of energy. “Walmart plans to tirelessly pursue renewable energy projects that are right for our customers, our business and the environment. These planned projects with SunPower are moving us in the right direction toward our renewable energy goals.”

Walmart is financing the solar projects through a power purchase agreement arranged by SunPower, allowing the retailer to buy power at competitive prices and hedge against future utility rate increases, with no upfront capital costs. Walmart will own the renewable energy credits associated with the system.

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“We commend Walmart for its leadership in driving corporate renewable energy adoption in the United States and for partnering with SunPower to deliver high-efficiency, high-quality solar to so many of its stores and facilities,” said Nam Nguyen, executive vice president for Commercial Americas at SunPower. “As the top U.S. commercial solar provider and with over 30 years of experience, SunPower is well positioned to help Walmart increase its renewable energy investments in a cost-effective manner.”

SunPower noted these installations will represent a 25 percent increase in Illinois’ current solar capacity and will generate enough electricity to power nearly 30,000 homes.

Amazon, meanwhile, announced an initiative this month to generate renewable energy by installing solar panels on its fulfillment centers across the U.K., with an installed capacity of 20 megawatts. Amazon said it expects the solar panels to generate the equivalent amount of electricity required to power over 4,500 U.K. homes and will reduce its carbon footprint by 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. The solar systems will be developed and funded by Macquarie Principal Finance.

Amazon said initially it plans to install large-scale rooftop solar arrays atop 10 of its fulfillment centers in the U.K. in the next 18 months. The project is part of Amazon’s commitment announced last year to deploy solar at 50 customer fulfillment centers globally by 2020.

The retailer also has signed a deal for 100 percent renewable electricity to power its U.K. buildings. The electricity will be fully backed by Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates, meaning the energy it buys for its fulfillment centers and other buildings was generated from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

“As our fulfillment network continues to expand, we want to help generate more renewable energy at both existing and new facilities around the world in partnership with community and business leaders,” said Stefano Perego, operations director for Amazon U.K. “We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability, which is good for the environment, our business, our customers and the communities in which we operate. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers.”

Earlier this year, Amazon launched a 1.1 megawatt solar rooftop installation at its North Las Vegas fulfillment center as part of the company’s long-term goal of powering its global footprint with 100 percent renewable energy. That project was Amazon’s 17th rooftop solar installation in the U.S. over the past 14 months. The company has a goal to install at least 50 rooftop solar systems globally by 2020.

Amazon’s most recent renewable energy projects include solar arrays on fulfillment center rooftops in California, Maryland and New Jersey, as well as wind farms in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. To date, Amazon has announced or commenced construction on projects that will generate a total of 3.6 million megawatt hours of renewable energy.