is the evil empire turning *gulp* good?

Posted on May 8, 2007

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Is the evil empire finally coming into the light?

Literally at least, Wal-mart is.

Rooftop solar panels will be installed on 22 of its stores, such as Wal-mart and Sam’s Clubs, in California and Hawaii to provide electricity. Generating up to 20 million megawatts-hours of electricity annually, the solar power provides 30 per cent of each store’s energy needs. The project could potentially cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10,000 metric tons a year.

While Wal-mart’s doing its bit for the environment by using renewable energy, it isn’t entirely altruistic.

For starters, the solar-generated power is going to cost the retail giant less than regular utilities.

It’s also likely low-risk and low-cost for Wal-mart as the installation costs and ownership of the set-up are undertaken by the contractors BP Solar, SunEdison, and PowerLight. By going down the green route, Wal-mart also gets to enjoy a federal tax credit for solar installations.

But on the bright side, it is doing something good for the environment. Solar power needs no fuel and has no carbon emissions, a cause of global warming.

If this experiment works, more of its stores could eventually be fitted with solar panels. Wal-mart’s size and reach all over the country could mean greater adoption of the technology and lower costs, which might encourage other businesses to follow suit. Following Wal-mart’s example in this case isn’t bad at all.

CNN reports that some retailers set to do the same are Whole Foods, Staples and Lowe’s while Target and Kohl’s signaled their intention to purchase solar-powered electricity.

Wal-mart has declared its goal of eventually using 100 per cent renewable energy while it works to conserve power and reduce waste generated. They might not be great employers or good for small businesses but if they achieved these green targets, there might be some good in the “evil empire” after all.

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