It’s no secret that Walmart owns and leases thousands of acres of real-estate across America – and it’s nice to hear that the retail giant is putting some of it to greater environmental benefit. Walmart took another step on the long road to a future fueled 100 percent by renewables with the construction of the company’s first large scale wind turbine project in Red Bluff, California. The 265 foot tall wind turbine, with a blade diameter of 250 feet, will start operation this fall.
Walmart unveiled the wind turbine yesterday at the Red Bluff distribution center 185 miles north of San Francisco. The one megawatt power installation will provide 15 to 20 percent of the distribution center’s annual electricity needs.
While Walmart has not given a deadline of when the retail giant plans on reaching that 100 percent renewables goal, the movement towards powering the company’s operations with clean energy continues to take baby steps. Fuel cells in part power 26 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations in California, and at last count 140 solar installations are spread out across six states. In addition, wind power has a foundation in Walmart stores around the world, with almost 350 in Mexico, 14 in Northern Ireland and a scattering of mini wind turbines in Massachusetts. The Red Bluff project, however, is a notable step for Walmart.
The General Electric turbine should produce 2.2 million kilowatt hours annually. Under a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Foundation Windpower, Walmart will buy the power the turbine produces via a long term agreement. For now, Walmart is viewing the Red Bluff installation as a pilot project. According to Greg Pool, the company’s senior manager of renewable energy and emissions, the overall success of the Red Bluff site will determine whether Walmart builds similar installations at more sites.
For Walmart, an embrace of more renewable energy technologies could help insulate the company from future price shocks as the price of fossil fuels shows only one overall trajectory: upward. Furthermore a commitment from Bentonville to take renewable energy seriously can give the industry even more “street cred.” While the toxic political climate in Washington DC continues to halt the formation of a serious energy policy here in the US, it will be up to companies like Walmart to show that projects like the one in Red Bluff are not folly, but forward thinking.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and covers sustainable architecture and design for Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.
Photo courtesy Walmart Green Room.