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From the Rooftops, Big Box Stores Are Embracing Solar

by ace
From the Rooftops, Big Box Stores Are Embracing Solar

Target's famous target is so cosmically linked to the brand that it's hard to imagine the retail giant tinkering with the red color of the logo. But over the past decade – under pressure from customers, shareholders and employees – Target's retail future is turning into a very different tone: eco-green.

The Minneapolis retailer, best known for its fashion and private label brands and its millennial prices, has publicly embraced its customer base's renewable energy passions with many millennial customers and is adding solar panels to the roof of its stores to generate electricity. renewable at a breathtaking pace.

Target is so serious about being seen as a friend of the planet that by November, the company said it had erected solar panels on its roof in 500 of its stores in the United States. That represents more than a quarter of 1,855 stores, and Target expects to reach that goal a year ahead of schedule.

By the end of 2019, Target will achieve 25% of its mission to achieve 100% renewable electricity in its stores – and only a few months after the announcement of the promise. In its relentless attempt to beat arch-rival Walmart, Target also topped solar capacity at the site for three years in a row. Solar Means Business from the Solar Energy Industries Association report, a survey of corporate solar users.

"We see this as one of the most important things we can do," said Mark Schindele, senior vice president of properties at Target. "The title we are focusing on is this: what is most important to Target guests?"

A recurring answer: sustainability. Nearly three out of four target customers say sustainability is "extremely" or "very" important to them, according to a customer survey last fall.

At a time when the federal government is increasingly moving away from issues such as sustainability and climate change, corporate America is intensifying. Retail Giants, from Target to Walmart and Amazon; and Apple tech titans to Google and Facebook are acting to respond because it's good for business and good for corporate image. For many consumers, addressing core issues such as climate change and sustainability go hand in hand with attracting their business.

Going green never looked so good – or cost so little. Solar power is almost 90% cheaper than 10 years ago and wind power is about 70% cheaper, said Gregory Wetstone, president and chief executive of American Council on Renewable Energy, a nonprofit organization promoting the transition to renewable energy. This explains why companies in the United States bought three times more energy from solar and wind energy in 2018 than the year before.

"All aspects of the retail machine will be modernized and finally energized in green," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at Tthe NPD Group, a research and consulting expert. These green developments not only apply to energy use, but everything from packaging to fuel consumption during delivery, he said. "Retailers will look for green to be seen as part of their DNA."

This has left many of the world's largest companies falling to embrace solar, wind and other renewable sources. But over the past decade, big retailers like Target and Walmart, which use large amounts of energy in their stores, have gone from sticking their fingers in the water to diving headfirst.

"Target and Walmart are competing over who can be greener," said Wetstone. In addition to saving a lot of money on energy costs, he said, "There are huge business advantages in getting customers to understand that you walk."

Which may explain why, since mid-2017, Target's Phoenix distribution center has been equipped with a huge solar panel designed in the shape of the Target logo. The solar panel – which spans seven soccer fields – can be seen by passengers arriving and departing on flights at nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Because Target is widely recognized for its design capabilities, designing solar panels in the shape of the Target logo was no big deal, Schindele said.

But Walmart is right behind Target. It has also set a long-term goal of using 100% renewable energy. "We know this is on our customers' minds," said Laura Phillips, Walmart's senior vice president of sustainability. By 2025, Walmart intends to power 50% of its operations with renewable energy through on-site facilities and purchases from outside energy suppliers.

That helps explain why companies bought three times more renewable energy than a year earlier, Wetstone said. They bought 8.6. gigawatts of solar and wind energy by 2018, which is enough to power 2.2 million US homes annually, according to the American Council on Renewable Energy.

Unlike Target, whose stores are all domestic, Walmart has renewable energy projects around the world, from South Africa to China and India. In India, rooftop solar power is in 90% of its buildings. And in China, Walmart recently put a solar project on the roof of a Sam's Club store in Jiangxi province.

Worldwide, Walmart has 136 projects under development that will generate another two billion kilowatts of renewable energy, Phillips said. And through a vendor-focused initiative that Walmart calls Gigaton Project, the retailer is working to avoid one billion metric tons (one gigaton) of global value chain greenhouse gases by 2030.

Back at Target, the company's rooftop solar program began with a trickle around 2011, shortly after John Leisen, Target's vice president of property management, joined the company. The program took off in 2015, when 150 stores added solar roofs – and just four years later, that number more than tripled.

Not all Target stores are candidates for solar roofs, however, because most of their smaller stores are rented spaces and some are in parts of the country where the economics of becoming solar doesn't work. Target does not say what it is investing in solar energy, but Leisen has confirmed that it is "millions" of dollars.

A solar panel roofing system for a mass merchant like Target or Walmart can cost $ 150,000 to install, according to estimates by Solar Energy Industries Association, a nonprofit trade association in the solar energy industry. "As C.F.Os gets used to the concept, they realize that it makes sense," said Abigail Ross Hopper, chief executive of the trading group.

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