Big Box Roofs Generate Solar Power

By Kathryn Hamilton

Large, flat spaces are some of the most perfect environments for solar panels – they’re almost always fully exposed to the sun and there’s little competition for using the space. With more than 100,000 big box structures – including retail, grocers, supercenters and malls – totaling nearly 5 billion available square feet of rooftop space, grocers and big box stores are taking advantage of generating clean energy by harnessing the sun’s rays.

Upscale grocer Wegmans partially powers three New York-regional store locations, two offices, one warehouse and an organic farm with solar power, and the company recently installed solar panels that are expected to last up to 25 years and generate a combined 2.5 million watts at peak. It’s hard to imagine those numbers – by comparison, that’s the equivalent of annual electric usage for 268 houses.

The roof of the grocer’s Rochester office building has 2,000 solar panels up top, which Wegmans tells Progressive Grocer are expected to produce almost enough power for one month’s worth of electricity for that structure annually.

A March 2016 report released by Environment America and the Frontier Group says solar energy collection has increased more than 100-fold during the last decade, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the United States can conceivably generate enough rooftop solar electricity to satisfy nearly 25 percent of the nation’s electricity demand.

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