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Report: Whole Foods demonstrates advantages of rapid solar rollouts


A new report makes the case for taking a standardized approach to rapidly rollout of solar rooftop installations.

An analysis by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and The Solar Foundation found that Whole Foods Market’s approach to rooftop solar installations in multiple facilities could be a valuable model for other retailers to consider.

Whole Foods recently announced a plan to retrofit approximately 100 facilities with rooftop solar by 2017, in addition to the 40 solar installations already completed by the end of 2015. The analysis, “Whole Foods Market; Making the Case for Rapid Solar Rollouts,” details how the retailer is meeting its goal.

“Whole Foods Market was able to find sensible solutions to many common challenges retailers face when implementing solar and ultimately created a smart pathway for expansion,” said Erin Hiatt, RILA’s senior manager, sustainability and compliance. “With more and more businesses exploring solar as a highly cost effective way to expand renewable energy generation, Whole Foods Market offers a replicable approach for the industry.”

Whole Foods had to overcome several challenges to stay on track, according to the report. First, negotiating separate arrangements with landlords for each unique solar project can be time-consuming and expensive. Second, roof quality can be a concern, especially in older buildings. Finally, the costs of financing each project can be inconsistent and uncertain.

Whole Foods Market addressed these challenges in different ways, First, toward the end of the last decade, the chain began including standardized language in its solar leases, which paved the way for future solar development. Earlier this year, the grocer selected two firms, NRG and SolarCity, to develop the new rooftop solar systems. By working with only a small number of system providers (two), Whole Foods was able to benefit from better terms, volume pricing, and consistent, field-tested hardware.

In the analysis, Whole Foods recommends that based on its experience, other retailers interested in rolling out solar rooftop installations:

• Start as early as possible to assess lease language and terms, establish solar-enabling language in new leases and renewals, and talk with landlords to gauge their interest in solar.

• Understand the building stock. Obtain structural and electrical plans, roof membrane warranties, and determine the expected life of the roof.

• Consider a limited vendor, multi-location approach to achieve economies of scale.

“Whole Foods Market is going solar using an innovative approach that will save money, save time, and benefit the environment,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “We hope that other retailers will look to this approach as a guide for how to rapidly install solar across multiple facilities.”

The complete analysis can be found here.
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