11/6/2013 6:30 PM ET|
Wal-Mart, champion of solar power?
The retail giant now draws 89 megawatts of solar energy -- more than 38 US states.
Solar power and keg stands have one thing in common: Wal-Mart (WMT) wants to profit from them.
In the race for commercial solar power, Wal-Mart is killing it. The company now has almost twice as much capacity as second-place Costco (CSCO). A better comparison: Wal-Mart is converting more sun into energy than 38 U.S. states.
In the beer department, Wal-Mart recently decided alcohol was good business and vowed to double sales by 2016. The result: 500 reps from the alcohol industry converged on the Sam's Club auditorium in Bentonville, Ark., for an "adult beverages summit" focused on Wal-Mart. "It's even selling it in garden centers," Bloomberg's Renee Dudley wrote in August.
With solar, will Wal-Mart have the same industry-focusing presence it's had with booze? If small business is the heart of the U.S. economy, Wal-Mart is the gluteus maximus -- the power muscle. The company redefines global supply chains and crunches cost reductions in just about every area it touches. More than 80 publicly traded companies rely on Wal-Mart for 10 percent or more of their annual revenue, according to Bloomberg data.
"When we find something that works -- like solar -- we go big with it," the company's website proclaims.
When companies tout their solar street cred, it's generally not because they're actually plugging panels in themselves. Most of Wal-Mart's projects are done through what are called power-purchase agreements, where third-party developers install, own and operate the systems on Wal-Mart rooftops. Wal-Mart simply locks in cheap long-term rates to buy back the electricity and take the green credit.
After a 40 percent surge in installations through the second quarter, Wal-Mart now draws on 89 megawatts of capacity, according to a report last month by the Solar Energy Industries Association. That's roughly enough to power 22,250 U.S. homes.
Even Wal-Mart has a lot more room to grow. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, green power accounts for just 4 percent of the company's electricity use.
IKEA, the world's biggest home-furnishings retailer, has over 30 megawatts of solar capacity installed -- trailing third-place Apple (AAPL) and fourth-place Kohl's (KOH) -- but it's taking solar a step further. The Swedish company plans to begin selling solar-panel systems in its U.K. stores next year, with a standard 3.36-kilowatt system costing $9,200.
For companies that took a look at solar a few years ago and passed, it may be time to look again. Prices of panels have fallen 60 percent just since 2011, and the average price of an installed solar project has dropped 30 percent, according to industry data.
It's still early days for solar. Wal-Mart produces more solar energy today than the entire country did in 1987, when Starship released the hit single "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." I'm not sure what exactly that says about Wal-Mart or the U.S. or 1980s pop music -- apart from showing that the landscape today is positively futuristic by comparison.
Buying solar and selling beer are two very different businesses. But when giants like Wal-Mart and Costco throw their weight into either, you can bet on a cheap buzz. I'll drink to that.
More from Bloomberg:
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M****duction of Walmart Solar panels, will decrease the price, of affordable energy, and take you off the Grid. It goes like this: remember when computers were $4000.00 dollars a piece, now their $400.00 dollars a piece, and when HDTV was $4000.00 dollars a piece, also they are now $400.00 dollars a piece. Solar panels in their scarcity are near $4000.00 a small set-up, the same price as a diesel engine on a skid. With improved production, like from Sky Heat Inc. and Dr. Richard Komp, solar resources could become much less expensive and give you off the grid independence, with perks like electric company buy-back plans, and earn cash. Fill black water tubs with water in your greenhouse as a quick solar solution in the winter sun.
Good for Wal-Mart. Solar will be a key part of our future and we need to get more implementation of it here in our country. A big purchaser like this will be good for the industry. Prices continue to fall and we are missing out on an energy source that can become a key part to our countries energy puzzle. Not to mention jobs and tech that we are allowing the Chinese to more or less have the monopoly on. All these people talk about being patriotic but mention solar and suddenly that's stupid hippy stuff who cares??? Makes no sense to me. A lot of jobs to be had here. Fossil Fuel only power generation and overwhelming majority centralized distribution are not the way of the future and we (America) need to wise up and make a change. A hybrid approach of these concepts is what will take us into the next century and we need to get on board. The benefits go well beyond just being green.
I think its time
Sam Walton fulfilled the American dream. He started with one small store in a small town, and look at it today. You Socialist Progressives simply hate individual success and self-actualization. It is not "WE." It is "I CAN." However, we root for each other. If you Socialists don't like Free Enterprise, why don't you paddle on over to Cuba, or North Korea, or Iran? Give us a break with your constant negativity. America is Great.
we have the good ideas, we have the financial backing, we have the technology...
it will never work.
why on earth would an existing utility, which uses carbon based fossil fuels,
and generates their own electricity for you to buy,
want to give you back any money, credits or rebates ?
because their executive board have boat payments to make.
and because they control the energy consumption bought and sold in this country.
screw the arabs.
it comes down to the basics, money, politics, greed, supply and demand.
every government building should have been out fitted with solar panels years ago.
perhaps solyndra would then still be in business.
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