RALEIGH – The United States, and North Carolina, possesses “vast solar energy potential,” a new report states, including on the rooftops of big box stores across the country.
The report, Solar on Superstores: Big roofs, big potential for renewable energy, published by the Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, and authored by Bryn Huxley-Reicher of the Frontier Group as well as Wade Wilson and Ben Sonnega of Environment America Research & Policy Center, argues that the United States has “only just begun to tap its solar resources,” noting that there already exists the “technical potential to produce 78 times as much electricity as it used in 2020 just with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy.”
One area of huge opportunity: existing rooftops, especially those flat, open, and sunny rooftops of grocery stores, big box stores, shopping malls, and other large retail buildings.
North Carolina ranked third in a November study when it came to solar power. But there’s even more opportunity, today’s report states.
Opportunity in NC
In North Carolina, for example, the report documents 272.3 million square feet of “big box store” rooftop space on 3,684 existing buildings. By the report’s calculations, installation of solar photovoltaic panels on these rooftops could power 304,400 households.
The stores themselves may also benefit, the report notes. In North Carolina, for example, the annual energy consumption from the 3,684 box stores, in gigawatt hours, was 6,441.8, while the potential annual solar generation at those stores was calculated at 3,241.1 gigawatt hours.
“Producing electricity on rooftops, close to where the electricity will be used, reduces energy losses that happen during electricity transmission and distribution – losses that made up 6% of gross electricity generation in 2020,” the report’s executive summary reads.
North Carolina recently hired Jennifer Mundt, a new assistant secretary in the Department of Commerce, who will be tapped with the state’s clean energy economic development.
Which stores could provide the most power?
The report states that the top 10 retailers, ranked in order of each company’s potential solar capacity, are:
- The Home Depot
- Lowe’s Companies
- The Kroger Co.
- Albertsons Companies
- Costco Wholesale
- TJX Companies
- Publix Super Markets
Walmart has a corporate office in Charlotte. Lowe’s is headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina, and is opening a new technology campus in Charlotte, and Kroger owns the Harris Teeter brand and stores, a company founded in Matthews, North Carolina.