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U.S. big box store roofs could generate major solar power, research shows

U.S. big box store roofs could generate major solar power, research shows
A new report by non-partisan group Environment America finds American big box stores have major potential to produce electricity by installing solar panels on their roofs. The report finds the more than 100,000 stores could produce enough energy to power 8 million average American homes. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. superstores have potential to generate solar energy by installing panels on their roofs, according to a report released Thursday.

With solar panels installed, the United States could create enough energy to power close to 8 million homes, according to the report entitled "Solar on Superstores: Big roofs, big potential for renewable energy," published by the non-partisan group Environment America.

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Solar electricity generation capacity has increased approximately 40 times between 2010 and 2021.

"The United States has the technical potential to produce 78 times as much electricity as it used in 2020 just with solar photovoltaic energy," says the report.

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The report's authors go on to say the flat, open, sunny roofs covering the country's more than 100,000 big-box retail stores, supercenters, large grocery chains and malls are the perfect spot to install the solar panels.

Those roofs account for almost 7.2 billion cumulative square feet of untouched space and have the potential to generate 84.4 terawatt-hours of electricity.

California, Florida, Texas, Ohio and Illinois have the largest big-box store solar generation potential.

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"Putting solar panels on the nation's superstores would be good for businesses, good for electricity customers, good for the grid and good for the environment," says the report.

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Fully integrating solar panels could help big-box stores and shopping centers replace half their annual electricity.

Producing electricity on rooftops also reduces energy losses that happen during electricity transmission and distribution. The report found those losses made up 6% of gross electricity generation last year.

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The report's authors suggest extending and expanding the federal investment tax credit for solar power, as well as other tax incentives and credits.

Walmart's solar installations have saved the company over $1 million, and its installations in California were expected to provide between 20% to 30% of each location's electricity needs, the report points out.

The four companies with the most solar installed as of 2019 were Apple, Amazon, Walmart and Target. Together, their solar installations totaled almost 1.4 gigawatts of capacity in 2019, which is more than 11% of the overall commercial solar capacity installed in the United States as of 2019.

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