Walmart had some distractions last week with Black Friday pepper spray madness, but the global retail giant is still charging ahead with business as usual. A few new twists are in store for the company, too. Walmart is rolling out a social gifting platform on Facebook to target its 11 million Facebook fans. And on the energy efficiency front, Walmart is installing one of Louisiana’s largest solar projects.
Cleco Power, a subsidiary of the energy services company Cleco Corporation, is Walmart’s partner in Louisiana. The initiative is one facet of Cleco’s Green Smart program, a clean energy research project to comply with a Louisiana statewide program to test the efficiency of fuels other than petroleum or natural gas. Could the program scale in a state with a thriving oil and gas sector?
The project is starting small with a rooftop project in the small town of Many in Sabine Parish, western Louisiana. Over 1200 monochrystalline solar panels, which Cleco says is the most efficient and dependable solar technology, will catch the Louisiana rays and produce 250 kilowatts of peak AC voltage. Currently no price per kilowatt hour of the solar-generated electricity is available from Walmart or Cleco; so whether solar can actually scale and thrive in an oil-rich state is a huge question mark.
Nevertheless, plunking even a few solar panels on one rural store is a step in the right direction for both Walmart and Louisiana. Between its stores, warehouse clubs and distribution centers, Walmart has plenty of real estate on which it install solar panels and experiment with other forms of clean energy technologies and energy saving tactics like white and green roofs. Furthermore, there is opportunity to show that technologies like solar can benefit everyone and are not just the fancy of dreamers on both coasts. Texas, after all, has a booming wind market. We have yet to see if Louisiana can become a thriving laboratory for solar.
So despite Washington’s inability to agree on any kind of energy policy, the needle is still moving on the local and corporate level. Considering all the cash large companies are sitting on, they will be the leading clean energy investors because no one else has the cash. And more companies understand that they have a role in allowing energy efficiency technologies, from hybrid vehicles to fuel cells, to scale and become cheaper. As for how Louisiana benefits, just because a state is rich in fossil fuels does not mean its residents and businesses will not be affected by price shocks. Now if Walmart’s 11 million-strong Facebook following could help nudge the retailer to adopt more clean energy technologies at its locations, that could earn Walmart even a few more “likes.”
Photo is of a solar installation at another Walmart location, courtesy the company’s media relations site.