The biggest retail chain in the world may not be the working man’s best friend, but Wal-Mart Stores is trying to make friends with the planet, picking Earth Day to say that it’s expanding its rooftop solar program along with partner BP Solar. The move could nearly double the number of solar photovoltaic installations at Wal-Mart stores in the U.S., with 10-20 new systems that turn out a total of up to 10 megawatts to go up in addition to the 22 that were originally planned.
First launched back in 2007, the program called for solar panels to be put on the roofs of a distribution center and a combination of 22 Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Clubs, all in Hawaii and California, with the systems coming from BP Solar, SunEdison, and SunPower‘s PowerLight subsidiary. Solar panels have already been installed at 18 buildings under that plan, with BP Solar, part of oil giant BP, handling seven of those installations.
Neither financial terms of the new agreement nor the cost of the project were disclosed, but this time around Wal-Mart only named BP Solar as a partner, and said the solar panels will be installed on stores and distribution centers in California over the next 18 months.
This could be a big win for BP Solar, which said late last month that it plans to lay off 620 workers, more than a quarter of its workforce. And it could mark the second deal for BP Solar this year. The company said in March that it’s entered talks with the Long Island Power Authority to provide nearly 37 MW of solar power for the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.
The new Wal-Mart project is expected to generate up to 32 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year and provide 20-30 percent of each building’s electricity needs. And there could be even more rooftop solar in Wal-Mart’s future — the retailer said once this project nears completion, it will look at expanding the program to other sites.
Photo of BP Solar installation on a Sam’s Club in Palm Desert courtesy of Makai Construction.