Hmm...not so sure if this says something good about IKEA or something not so good about their domestic competitors here in the U.S., but as a matter of fact it looks like a foreign company has just laid claim to being the biggest solar power owner in our Sunshine State of Florida, other than utilities.
Aside from who gets bragging rights, that's an interesting development on at least two levels. The era of big-box stores like IKEA is far from over, and solar power gives these retailers a great opportunity to squeeze extra value from their real estate. The era of stuff is also far from over, and generating or using clean energy gives stuff-happy retailers - and of course, we consumers - a chance to offset the pressure we're putting on the Earth's resources in the face of skyrocketing population growth.
IKEA solar power in Florida
The global home furnishing giant IKEA gets to be the non-utility King of Solar Power in Florida by virtue of its newest solar power installation, a 1,057 kilowatt (kW) array on the roof of its store in Sunrise in South Florida.
When you add in a 967 kW solar array at IKEA's Orlando store and a 1,189 kW solar array at its Tampa store (both completed last summer), according to the company it is now the largest non-utility solar owner in the whole state.
The fact that all three installations were engineered by the U.S. company REC Solar, Inc. doesn't quite take the sting out of it. There are plenty of American based, big-box retailers in Florida. Where are they hiding when it comes to solar power?
Energy independence for IKEA
The Florida installations actually a drop in the solar power bucket compared to IKEA's U.S. operations overall. The Sunrise installation is the 35th solar power project it has completed on its U.S. stores and four more are in the works, adding up to a grand total of 38 megawatts.
All together, the 39 installations will account for 90 percent of IKEA's U.S. facilities, but that, too, is just the tip of IKEA's renewable energy iceberg. By way of comparison, the three Florida installations total a little less than 13,000 solar panels, and IKEA has already installed a total of 250,000 solar panels worldwide as well as owning and operating about 110 wind turbines in Europe.
The company's ultimate goal is to be energy independent by 2020.
Sustainability and consumer loyalty
Aside from gaining access to low cost, renewable energy, that's the kind of sustainability initiative that could lead to an uptick in business. According to some surveys, consumers are already showing a strong preference for products made with wind power, so solar power and other forms of renewable energy can't be far behind.
Along the same lines, IKEA has also undertaken a long string of other consumer-friendly initiatives. Here's a brief rundown from the company on its U.S. efforts:
"...recycling waste material; incorporating environmental measures into the actual buildings with energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, recycled construction materials, skylights in warehouse areas, and water-conserving restrooms; and operationally, eliminating plastic bags from the check-out process, phasing-out the sale of incandescent light bulbs, facilitating recycling of customers’ compact fluorescent bulbs, and by 2016 selling and using only L.E.D. bulbs. IKEA also has installed electric vehicle charging stations at nine stores in the West."
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.