Wal-Mart, Costco Lead U.S. Businesses in Solar, SEIA Says

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Kohl’s Corp. lead U.S. businesses in generating electricity from the sun, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

U.S. businesses, government agencies and non-profit groups have installed more than 2.3 gigawatts of solar systems to date and will add another 7 gigawatts over the next five years, the Washington-based industry group said today in a statement.

Commercial solar is surging as the cost of installing the systems falls. The average price of a completed commercial project declined 14 percent in the year ending in June, making it a cost-effective tool to cut expenses, said David Ozment, senior director of energy for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart.

The world’s largest retailer is the top U.S. commercial solar-energy producer, with 65 megawatts of capacity atop its stores and warehouses, and eventually expects to get all of its electricity from renewable sources, Ozment said in an interview. “What’s been driving us is this aspirational goal,” he said. “Adding more renewable energy is also controlling energy expenses.”

Wal-Mart said today it completed a 3.3-megawatt project at a distribution center in Buckeye, Arizona, its largest system. The company has installed 144 systems among its more than 4,500 U.S. stores. “We’re accelerating our efforts and that’s going to help us drive scale,” he said.

Costco, based in Issaquah, Washington, has 38.9 megawatts of solar power. Kohl’s, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, has 36.5 megawatts at 124 of its sites and expects to reach 150 locations by the end of this year.

“Managing energy consumption and using, where possible, renewable energy sources like solar, makes sense both in terms of cost savings and being a good environmental steward,” John Worthington, Kohl’s chief administrative officer, said in an e-mail.

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