The Solar Foundation

Analysis: Whole foods market demonstrates benefits of rapid solar rollouts

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Source: The Solar Foundation

New analysis outlines a standardized approach to rapidly expand solar rooftop installations

Washington, D.C. -- A new analysis by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and The Solar Foundation found that Whole Foods Market’s approach to rooftop solar installations in multiple facilities could be a model for other retailers.

The analysis, “Whole Foods Market — Making the Case for Rapid Solar Rollouts,” outlines how the grocer will complete solar installations at multiple facilities within two years. Whole Foods Market recently announced a plan to retrofit approximately 100 facilities with rooftop solar by 2017, in addition to the 40 solar installations already completed by the end of 2015.

“Whole Foods Market is going solar using an innovative approach that will save money, save time, and benefit the environment,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “We hope that other retailers will look to this approach as a guide for how to rapidly install solar across multiple facilities.”

“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,” said Erin Hiatt, RILA’s senior manager, sustainability and compliance. “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 accomplish this solar rollout expeditiously, Whole Foods Market has to overcome several challenges, the analysis finds. First, negotiating separate arrangements with landlords for each unique solar project can be time-consuming and expensive. Second, roof quality can be a concern, especially in older buildings. Finally, the costs of financing each project can be inconsistent and uncertain.

Whole Foods Market addressed these challenges in two different ways. First, toward the end of the last decade, they began including standardized language in their solar leases, which paved the way for future solar development. Earlier this year, the grocer selected two firms, NRG and SolarCity, to develop the new rooftop solar systems. Working with a small number of system providers (two), Whole Foods Market was able to benefit from better terms, volume pricing, and consistent, field-tested hardware.

In the analysis, Whole Foods Market recommends that based on its experience, other retailers interested in rolling out solar rooftop installations:

  • Start as early as possible to assess lease language and terms, establish solar-enabling language in new leases and renewals, and talk with landlords to gauge their interest in solar.
  • Understand the building stock. Obtain structural and electrical plans, roof membrane warranties, and determine the expected life of the roof.
  • Consider a limited vendor, multi-location approach to achieve economies of scale.

The complete analysis can be found here.

About The Solar Foundation

Our mission is to accelerate adoption of the world’s most abundant energy source. Through our leadership, research, and capacity building, we create transformative solutions to achieve a prosperous future in which solar technology is integrated into all aspects of our lives. Visit us at TheSolarFoundation.org.

About the Retail Industry Leaders Association

RILA is the trade association of the world’s largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.

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