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Wal-Mart Taps First Solar Electric Stores

With the installation of a 390-kilowatt solar power system at its Chino, Calif. Sam's Club, and a 283-kilowatt system at the Honolulu Sam's on Keeaumoku Street, Wal-Mart Stores has completed the first pair of what it said will be about 22 solar electric systems on Wal-Marts, Sam's and distribution centers in California and Hawaii.

The solar power unit at the Chino Sam's Club is expected to achieve savings over current utility rates "as soon as the first day of operation," according to Wal-Mart and the manufacturer, San-Jose, Calif.-based SunPower Corp., from which Wal-Mart is purchasing a total of 4.6 megawatts worth of solar electric systems for seven locations.

The solar installations also will cut Wal-Mart's carbon footprint, or greenhouse gas output, and the units are financed by deferred capital expenditure.

"Wal-Mart's SunPower solar power systems are financed through our SunPower Access program, which is a power purchase agreement that allows our customers to take advantage of the environmental and financial benefits of solar power with no upfront capital costs," said Tom Werner, ceo of SunPower. "The solar electricity will be competitively priced against retail rates, providing Wal-Mart with a long-term hedge against rising peak power prices."

SunEdison, the Beltsville, Md.-based provider of solar electric systems for four of the retailer's Hawaii locations, like SunPower is also building and maintaining the installations under a solar power service agreement that covers all upfront costs.

"Wal-Mart's decision to use renewable energy proves zero-emission solutions are viable right now, and that solar power is clearly part of the energy mix," said Tom Rainwater, ceo of SunEdison.

The SunPower solar panels setups, which the company said are "50% more efficient than conventional solar panels," are projected to provide up to 30% of the total electric power for the store on which they are installed.

SunEdison said its systems will on average provide 10% to 15% of the power for each store.

"Wal-Mart is moving forward with its commitment to conserve energy, reduce energy costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions — and this project is a step in the right direction," said Kim Saylors-Laster, vp of energy, Wal-Mart.

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