By Ed Ignatoff
It’s heartening to hear that a great many superstores have committed themselves to powering much of their energy needs through rooftop solar, given the energy potential of their big flat sunny roofs.
Consider these facts from the nonprofit Environment America Research & Policy Center:
- Nationwide, there are over 100,000 superstores, with almost 7.2 billion square feet of rooftop. They could replace half of their annual electricity use with rooftop solar.
- An average Walmart has 180,000 square feet of rooftop, about the size of three football fields. That rooftop space could support enough solar energy to power nearly 200 homes.
- Florida has almost 7,000 superstores. Equipped with solar, their rooftops could power close to 655,000 Florida homes.
Some of America’s largest retailers already grasp the business case for rooftop solar. At the end of 2019, Apple, Amazon, Walmart and Target were the leaders of the American corporate world in rooftop solar electricity production. Walmart’s California solar installations already are providing between 20% and 30% of each location’s electricity needs. Still, more must be done, especially in Florida.
Besides rooftop solar, some superstores also are installing solar in parking lots, which similarly offer flat, open and sunny areas. Elevated solar panels have the added benefit of providing shade for parked cars.
Corporations increasingly recognize the economic and societal value of solar — and are responding to the demands of their customers and shareholders. The Yale program on Climate Change Communication reported this year that about six in 10 (59%) of Americans are alarmed or concerned about the effects of climate change. Over recent years, Americans have become more worried about global warming, more receptive to climate solutions and more cognizant that the burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor.
The report encourages businesses to set more ambitious goals for solar installations and to invest the resources needed to meet those goals.
But it shouldn’t stop there. American business leaders should also support policies that would decrease the burning of fossil fuels.
One of the most effective ways to do that is to place a price on carbon as spelled out in the Energy Innovation and Dividend Act, which is currently in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would impose a fee — not a tax — on carbon emissions, and return that money to citizens in a monthly check. The fee would gradually increase the price of products made with the use of fossil-fuel energy, like coal and petroleum. But higher prices would encourage consumers to buy less and keep that monthly check in their pocket. It also would spur coal and oil companies to innovate clean-energy solutions.
A carbon fee is included in the continuing Build Back Better negotiations. Even Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said recently that “If you’re serious about climate, put a price on carbon.”
Please join me in encouraging American business leaders — and Florida’s congressional delegation — to support the Energy Innovation and Dividend Act because reducing carbon pollution would benefit us all.
Ed Ignatoff leads the Boca Raton chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.