Four Reasons Why Walmart Is Actually Good For The World

Published July 1, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017

It’s Surprisingly Green

Walmart Solar Panels

David McNew/Getty ImagesArnold Schwarzenegger, then governor of California, tours a solar panel installation on the roof of a Sam’s Club store on Earth Day, April 22, 2009 in Glendora, California. Sam’s Club stores are owned and operated by Walmart.

Vast economies of scale are just one reason Walmart is greener than most of its competitors.

Another reason is that the company makes deliberate efforts to reduce waste and save energy wherever it can. For a business as large as Walmart, even a small effort to save resources in each store can have a huge system-wide effect on pollution and energy use.

Each year, Walmart consumes a stunning 29,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity worldwide, which Forbes estimates is enough to run 1.5 million American homes, for example. Thus, the company’s annual power bill probably runs to around $1 billion, which is a strong motivator to shave a few points off of each location’s electricity use.

Walmart achieves this goal with a cleverly negotiated installation agreement with SolarCity. Under the terms of the agreement, SolarCity installs solar panels on Walmart store roofs for free, after which the store pays for discount electricity at something like 15 percent less than market rate.

Combined with on-site battery packs, which store surplus energy while the Sun is out and feed it back when it’s dark, some locations are generating up to 30 percent of their own power without placing demands on the grid. And what’s more, Walmart has announced its intention to slash power consumption even further by 2020.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.
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