Walmart Collects More Solar Power Than Anyone Else – Why?

Walmart? It’s complicated.

As we noted yesterday, privately-owned solar panels are hot right now – and since they’re as cost-saving as they are trendy, you’d expect big business to be falling over itself to use them. You’d be right, too. A report from the Solar Energy Industries Association lists the top 20 companies by solar power capacity – and right at the top? Walmart.


Here’s an example of why lists never tell the full story. We’ve been keeping an eye on the mixed grocery bag that is Walmart for a number of years now – for example, wrinkling our brows over its patchy record on supporting and promoting women in business (Externally? Yup. Internally? Not so much). Grist, Treehugger and Mother Jones have all uncovered causes for deep, deep concern amidst the sustainability rhetoric. Walmart: it’s complicated.

The company’s success since 1960 is astonishing to behold, and it’s smart enough to know that being vocal about improving is the way to keep the critics under control. Topping a list of solar-powered companies won’t hurt their credibility by any means.  But does this list indicate they’re the greenest of them all? Alas, it’s not that simple. As Ariel Schwartz notes at Fast Co.EXIST, Walmart is at the top because it’s the largest retailer in the world, and consequently has more roof-space & more money to spend on cost-saving photovoltaic technology. A better way to spot the real top dog is to look at proportions. In terms of solar power units per store, IKEA wipes the shop floor with the competition with a whopping 79%.

Walmart currently generates just 2% of its power needs through renewable sources. Thanks to its size, that’s still a huge amount of power not coming from conventional supplies, and that’s a very good thing indeed. It’s also a showcase for the commercial viability of solar technology – even if Walmart were doing it just to save money. Whatever their motivations, they’re championing private solar power on a whopping scale, and we’ll certainly raise a glass to that.

Image: Roof of Las Vegas Walmart (Walmart Stores).

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.