Target starts solar-power rollout
John Vomhof Jr., April 30, 2007
Target Corp. is spending millions of dollars to cuts
its energy costs and secure a greener image in the
The Minneapolis-based retailer has installed solar
panels on the roofs of four of its California retail
stores and plans to install similar systems at 14
more locations later this year. The solar-panel systems
will generate about 20 percent of those stores' annual
Target joins a growing number of retailers and other
major corporations that are adopting alternative-energy
sources. Rival discount retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
also has adopted renewable energy sources at some
of its stores, though it only has dabbled in solar
Target has installed solar panels at three stores
in the Los Angeles market and another in El Cajon,
near San Diego. The company will expand the program
to other California stores later this year, including
some in the San Francisco Bay area.
Target declined to comment on whether it might someday
use solar energy in the Twin Cities or other markets
outside of California, but spokeswoman Amy von Walter
said the use of solar energy falls in line with Target's
focus on energy-efficient design and operations.
"Part of Target's DNA is our commitment to the community,
and certainly that ties into the environment as well,"
she said. "We're known as being an ethical company,
and we are very sensitive to meeting green standards
as we do business whenever possible." Major investment
It is not a small commitment either. The solar-power
systems Target is using are extensive and costly.
A Target store in Stockton, Calif. -- about 60 miles
east of San Francisco Bay -- recently installed solar
panels in five grids, spanning roughly 50,000 square
feet, or about 40 percent of the rooftop. The 1,962
solar photovoltaic modules would be more than enough
to cover an entire football field.
A system that size would cost an estimated $3 million
to $5 million, said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Los Gatos,
Calif.-based Akeena Solar Inc., one of the nation's
leading designers and installers of solar-energy systems.
But a company like Target could see immediate economic
benefits from using solar energy, Cinnamon said. When
a company finances a solar project, the monthly energy
savings often outweigh the monthly financing expenses.
"It's cheaper over the long term to put a solar-power
system on your roof and generate your own electricity
than it is to rent it forever from a utility."
Even large companies that pay the full capital expense
upfront generally see the solar-power systems pay
for themselves in seven to 10 years in California,
said Andrew Beebe, president of Pasadena, Calif.-based
Energy Innovations Inc., which installed a multimillion-dollar
system at Google Inc.'s corporate headquarters earlier
Many companies are moving to solar energy in California,
Beebe said, because the state's rebate program, combined
with federal tax credits, can cover 50 to 60 percent
of the cost of installing a solar-power system. "It's
almost becoming a part of every major company's corporate
strategy," he said. Wal-Mart's energy rollout
Target's largest competitor, Bentonville, Ark.-based
Wal-Mart, installed solar-power systems at two experimental
stores in 2005. Those stores also implemented wind
turbines and various other initiatives aimed at reducing
the company's energy usage.
Most of Wal-Mart's new stores use an energy-saving
program referred to as daylight harvesting. Skylights
throughout the stores let in natural light, and sensors
automatically dim or turn off store lighting when
there is enough natural light.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart launched its new high-efficiency
store model, called HE-1, which it says will trim
energy usage by about 20 percent. The company hopes
to design and roll out a prototype store that is 25
to 30 percent more energy efficient by 2009, spokesman
Kory Lundberg said.
"The ultimate goal is to be supplied 100 percent
by renewable energy," he said.
Wal-Mart also sent out a request for proposals for
solar-power generation late last year. The company
declined to provide any details regarding its solar
"We're still reviewing that, and hopefully we'll
have an announcement to make on that very soon," Lundberg