Whole Foods Market, the natural grocery juggernaut, recently announced plans to retrofit roughly 100 of its stores with rooftop solar by 2017. That’s in addition to the 40 solar arrays it had installed by the end of 2015. As such the grocer’s rapid rollout of solar power has generated interest from the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and The Solar Foundation, which recently studied its model for rapid solar expansion as one that could be used by other companies.
“Whole Foods Market is going solar using an innovative approach that will save money, save time, and benefit the environment,” said Andrea Luecke, The Solar Foundation president. “We hope that other retailers will look to this approach as a guide for how to rapidly install solar across multiple facilities.”
Similar to other retail outlets, Whole Foods leases shell buildings and spaces that allow renting businesses to make improvements. However, there are constraints to installing rooftop solar arrays on such facilities. These are generally concerns aired by landlords of multi-use or multi-tenant retail spaces regarding the impact of a solar installation on neighbors, existing structural constraints on older structures requiring retrofitting, and the maintenance of solar installations.
The new study,“Whole Foods—Making the Case for Rapid Solar Roll-outs”, illustrated how Whole Foods is overcoming integration challenges and expediting its solar expansion at its facilities with a proactive and systematic approach that can serve as a model for the entire retail industry.To expedite and ensure the cost-effective implementation of its two-year plan, Whole Foods has proactively structured leases to include solar installation and structural improvement language. Both in its existing leases and its about to be renewed or future leases.
RILA Senior Manager Erin Hiatt said, “Whole Foods Market was able to find sensible solutions to many common challenges retailers face when implementing solar and ultimately created a smart pathway for expansion. With more and more businesses exploring solar as a highly cost effective way to expand renewable energy generation, Whole Foods Market offers a replicable approach for the industry.”
To help solve other cost challenges associated with rapid solar integration across a national chain Whole Foods has teamed with system providers SolarCity and NRG in order to benefit from multi-location volume pricing to reduce installation costs while delivering consistent results and solar power systems.
Looking at the big picture, retailers, particularly big box retailers, are realizing the potential savings and environmental benefits they can get by going solar. Looking at all the big box stores and their rooftops, the amount of solar power that could be installed on their roofs it huge. After all there are roughly 102,000 big box stores and facilities in the US. Installing solar on those 4.5 billion square feet of rooftop space could produced 62.3 gigawatts of solar power. This Whole Foods model could be adopted by such stores and chains and help speed adoption of solar across the country.Tweet