Retail giant Walmart is following through on its commitment to source 100 percent renewable energy for its global operations. Earlier this month, the company signed a deal to buy 233 megawatts of utility-scale wind power from EDP Renewables. Large companies—including Walmart—have collectively procured nearly 4 gigawatts of utility-scale wind and solar power across the U.S. through August of this year, breaking the previous high mark by 750 MW, according to a recent report by the Wind-Solar Alliance. These companies want renewable energy to fuel their growth and are willing to make the long-term investment to get it.
“The declining cost of renewable power has led to an increase in clean energy procurement from companies like Walmart in recent years,” Miguel Prado, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, said in a statement.
Walmart's most recent deal includes three wind farms—all developed, owned and operated by EDP Renewables—in the states of Illinois and Indiana. It’s not yet clear how the electricity will be distributed and whether the power will go directly toward local Walmart stores or to other facilities.
“Walmart has a goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, and sourcing energy from wind farms developed by partners like EDP Renewables is a core component in the mix,” Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart, said in a statement. “Wind energy is an important part of our energy portfolio.”
The company is also making investments on the solar energy front. Last week, it announced an agreement with the commercial energy provider SunPower, which will install solar systems at 19 Walmart stores and two distribution centers in Illinois. A mix of rooftop and ground-mount systems are expected to generate 23 MW of power, with start of construction targeted for the first half of 2019.
Walmart intends to supply its global operations with 50 percent renewable energy by 2025, on the path to 100 percent renewables. Other companies targeting 100 percent renewable power include Alphabet, GM, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson, according to the Wind-Solar Alliance. Through the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, more than 100 U.S. corporate buyers pledged to purchase 60 GW of new U.S. renewable energy capacity by 2025—and they've procured just over 13 GW since 2013, according to the Alliance.
Yet, as the Wind-Solar Alliance noted in its report, it can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to get the renewable power from where it’s generated to the demand centers that need it most. Walmart tackled that challenge by joining Southwest Power Pool's Regional Transmission Organization, which directs the construction of high-voltage transmission projects. Other major renewable energy users might choose to collaborate with transmission planners in other ways, the report suggested, such as paying a “green tariff” to a local utility, or working with other companies to develop a needed transmission line. A third option is for companies to work together through trade and advocacy organizations to help planners shape the grid.
Engaging large buyers of renewable energy with transmission planners may increasingly become an efficient way to ensure that the wind power is there when companies need it—and it can help move clean power goals like Walmart's forward.
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Based in southwest Florida, Amy has written about sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line for over 20 years, specializing in sustainability reporting, policy papers and research reports for multinational clients in pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, ICT, tourism and other sectors. She also writes for Ethical Corporation and is a contributor to Creating a Culture of Integrity: Business Ethics for the 21st Century. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.