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New report: North Carolina ranks 8th nationally for big box stores’ rooftop solar potential

Covering the state’s retail and grocery stores with solar panels could generate enough clean energy to power 304,400 average homes
For Immediate Release

Raleigh – Big box roofs have big solar potential in the Old North state, according to a new report from Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group. Solar on Superstores: Big Roofs, Big Potential for Renewable Energy finds that the combined roofs of North Carolina’s big box stores could generate roughly 3241 gigawatt-hours of clean electricity each year. That would be equivalent to generating enough energy to power 304,400 average American homes, which ranks 8th in the country.

“Big box stores aren’t just places to shop. They are also places that can make our environment better,” said Krista Early, Advocate of Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center. “Right now, thousands of store roofs and parking lots have no solar panels installed. We’re missing out on a great opportunity to produce clean, renewable energy right here in North Carolina. That needs to change.”

“Installing solar systems on large commercial facilities is one of the best ways that we can all participate in a clean, renewable, energy future,” said Susannah Tuttle, Director of NC Interfaith Power and Light.

The report also finds that installing solar on big box stores can provide numerous benefits to North Carolina beyond just the environment. These include a more resilient energy grid, cost savings for electricity consumers and cleaner air quality. 

“Understanding how we can use existing resources and existing physical landscape that we’ve built to help us move to a cleaner energy grid is a very important topic and something that we don't often think about. Luckily, there are so many ways to get involved right now, one of which is the carbon planning process that was initiated by Governor Cooper last year,” said Lindey Hallock of Vote Solar. 

For high-profile brands such as Walmart, Target and The Home Depot, installing solar panels is a difference-making opportunity in local communities. For that reason, Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center, along with its national partner Environment America Research & Policy Center, launched a campaign in 2021 calling on Walmart to install solar panels on all of its viable roofs and parking lots by 2035.

“Big companies like Walmart have the chance to shine in the much-needed renewable energy transition,” said Wade Wilson, who runs the Solar on Superstores campaign for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “There are 214 Walmart locations in North Carolina. Each store has a big, flat, unobstructed roof, which is ideal for generating solar energy. We know this would be a win for the environment and for business, and that’s why we're calling on Walmart to go big on solar.”

“North Carolina as a whole is a leader in the transition to clean energy and has made tremendous strides over the last decade. Downtown Raleigh has a solar energy system on top of our convention center that is now producing clean, renewable power that’s put on the grid and powering our lives everyday and there are incredible opportunities for us to continue working in the energy revolution,” said Patrick Buffkin, Raleigh City Council Member. 

Along with providing national and state data, the report recommends a number of public policies for states to pursue. These include extending state-level solar energy tax credits, championing community solar programs and streamlining solar permitting by leaning on tools like the Department of Energy’s SolarAPP+. The report’s policy recommendations are especially pertinent, given North Carolina’s momentum on transitioning to clean energy including policies like HB 951 and EO 246. .

“North Carolina has the potential to lead the way in clean energy, and our potential for installing solar on superstores is a great example,” said Early. “Not only is expanding solar electricity generation capacity good for the environment and the fight against climate change, but it also benefits North Carolina's  citizens, businesses and our electric grid. Using North Carolina's big box stores to increase solar energy production is a no brainer.”

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