Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Oct 04

Walmart to Install Thin Film Solar Panels

Posted in Energy Industry | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Walmart Solar Prominent corporations are paying special attention to go green and create a conducive environment for clean and green energy. Walmart too is taking appreciative steps in the field of alternative energy. In the year 2007, Walmart entered into a partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to provide a thrust to the photovoltaic technologies. It was related with thin-film solar. They aimed for taking it out from labs to the real world.


In the practical world, products should be commercially viable, consistent, and cost effective. Walmart is already installing the solar panels in its stores in southern California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Now they made it public to install more solar panels to another 20 to 30 outlets in California and Arizona. With this step they are moving towards their pledge of going 100% green in future.

Walmart will procure its thin-film solar panels from Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar and MiaSolé. First Solar utilizes cadmium telluride and MiaSolé, and makes use of copper, indium, gallium and selenide (CIGS) for their modules. Both of these companies offer low cost solar panels and provide an alternative to costly silicon based panels.

Why California and Arizona: California and Arizona were chosen for the new Walmart solar installations because of the simple fact that these two states receive ample sunshine. But another economic fact is that these two states provide financial incentives thus giving necessary impetus for the expansion of solar drive. Walmart also aims to portray itself as an organization that cares about the world its customers live in. It is not merely the price that attracts consumers towards brands and organizations it is also the way they conduct business and show sensitivity towards burning issues like the environment and natural disasters. So aside from cost savings and upfront incentives Walmart also feels enthusiastic about the environmental impact its new decisions are going to make.

Advantages of Thin-Film semiconductors:

First advantage is that these films are less costly than silicon based solar panels. Another plus point is since these films are just 1 micron thick they require less materials for manufacturing. They offer one more good advantage: since these panels are light in weight they can be easily mounted on flat rooftops and work deftly during accumulation of snow too. Thin-film panels don’t interfere with skylights. They also work better in smog or fog conditions. In advanced applications, thin film solar can even be incorporated into the building envelope itself, further reducing life-cycle cost.

Project’s Success: Alternative energy project’s successes are calculated by two mainly yardsticks. First, some significant amount of energy is converted into clean and green energy and second, how much greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Thin-Film solar cells’ performance is not disappoint on these two fronts. They cost around the same or slightly less than the electricity generated from the conventional sources. Installing thin-film solar cells also give returns like any other infrastructure project.

Future Performance of Thin-Film solar Cells for Walmart:

After the installation of the thin-film solar cells in the proposed locations of Walmart they are expected to yield more than 22.5 million kilowatt hours of energy per year. This will meet up the 20 to 30% needs of the each outlets. If we want to know in terms of reduction in greenhouse gases, it would be equal to more than 11,650 metric tons of GHG. It means we are taking more than 3,000 cars off the road each year.

Kim Saylors Laster, who is the Walmart vice president of energy, says, “By leveraging our global scale to become a more efficient company, we are able to lower our expenses and help develop markets for new technologies. Developing and incorporating new renewable energy sources, like thin film, reduces energy price risk and aligns very well with our commitment to solving business challenges through technology.”

Looking at the 8,350 outlets of Wallmart, their going green move is still in infancy. They have a long way to go.

  • http://toad.net/~jsmeenen Scott Meenen

    So why can’t they also sell them too. I am convinced that the powers that be, do not want the average person to simply just be able to buy the panels and walk out the store with them.

  • michele

    Yes, please answer Scott Meenen’s question. And where are these thin film solar panels produced? China or the United States?

  • Thomas Marsocci

    Thin film panels would be a great advancement to my renewable energy business. Many people who want to change over to green energy ask for this technology but it is not available to Pro-Energy Plus for installation. Thomas

  • http://www.myonethirdacre.com Claire F

    If you do a First Solar job search your will find that they manufacture in Kulim, Malaysia & Bordeaux, France. G&A in US, Engineering in US. There are lots of US jobs but not in manufacturing.

    Currently all of MIaSole’s manufacturing is in California. http://www.miasole.com/company/faq

    PS. Google is great for that info

  • Daniel Hunter

    In places like California etc they should have done this years ago not just when it looks nice for PR sakes.

    It is a step in the right direction but if they really wanted to make a difference Scott Meenen states a good question why don’t they sell these solar panels themselves? That would actually make a significant difference.

  • styke

    To install a PV system on a house requires an engineer. Storage and phase matching are real problems, and the solutions will cost more than the panels themselves.

    Large scale installations like municipal power projects, and medium scale installations, such as Walmart stores, are easier to justify.

  • http://solarwall.com Todd Marron

    Scott, there is a level of specific knowledge required for proper installation of a Solar panel array. If WalMart were to just sell them off the shelves, likely there would be a lot of unhappy customers if the panels did not perform the way that they would have with proper installation. The powers that be are actually doing a pretty good job at offering incentives to stimulate growth in the Solar industry and along with more installations will come a broader level of understanding of the knowledge required for DIY installations. You see this happening in countries such as Germany where solar panels are becoming very much a standard purchase for many people. You’ll see solar panels being made far more accessible in the not-too-near future and to a large degree that will be because of, not in spite of the powers that be. There is a lot of support for renewable energy out there and it’s nice to see many large companies stepping up to the plate and embracing it.

  • sheckyvegas

    I heard a rumor that wal-mart actually owns first solar. That’s why they always use them for any such projects. Anybody know if this is true?

  • http://flexseg.com Bruce Murray

    I’ve been 100% solar on my CA house since 2004 16.5 Kw (Sharp panels & Sunny Boy inverters), I have no incentive to conserve energy until the “Cash for Kilowatts” program is signed into law! Like Oregon,Arizona,New Mexico already have, NOW I would like to install 200 Acres of Solar/Wind/Bio Fuel combo for my own property and investors retirement security !The Panels are guaranteed and installed with PGE’s approval so my question is when will the powers that be allow private citizens to get into the Green Energy game? The system now gives “energy credits” that evaporate (PGE gets FREE energy from unused kilowatts) at the end of each year. See youtube and search Solar Chariot, Solar Cookies, Solar Pizza…. for fun !The Technology exists so lets make America number one for Green Energy! Use home equity for super easy “Green Energy Conversion” loans, maybe 3% … any one that owns a bad mortgage should be encouraged to apply, if the solar exposure exists, Talk about Green Job Creating, their are hundreds of thousands of these terrible home loans in the US so instead of evicting families we could convert to green energy, keep people housed, and save many many American jobs, and WHEN Cash For Kilowatts is signed into Law people will see that the Garage covered in solar panels will generate an INCOME as well as all the energy an average family will need. And this is TODAY 2010! Interested Investors should have a SECURE way to invest in green energy…. Like Me !

  • http://solarwall.com Todd Marron

    Bruce,
    We’re seeing more and more of this type of legislation. In Ontario (Canada, not California – sorry) there was recently passed into law a Feed-in-Tariff program specifically designed to stimulate small rooftop solar installations. Any homeowner can tie-in to the grid and sell their power back at nearly 10x the regular rate for electricity for a guaranteed 20 year contract. The payout for the investment is about 15% and it’s been hugely successful, as was a similar program in Gainesville Florida a year or so ago. Many other jurisdictions are looking towards going in that direction and if we collectively keep our fingers crossed (and the pressure on) hopefully we’ll see something similar all over the country. It’s great that you made the leap to green your property … hopefully these incentive programs can have retroactive payments for individuals like yourself who took that important first-step.

  • Francisco A Roque

    That’s a very positive step, Europe is into it very heavy and they also should be able to sell the best panels to us at the vest price, Germany is even renting out roofs to place those panels, generate energy and make a profit.
    It is time for us to emulate them now, specially now that big oil is looking every second of the day to jack up the price, I am so sick of that, China should also do the same.

  • http://www.skyhighenergy.com/careers.html skyhighenergy

    That would be great if this program spread and was picked up around the country. It is true that a lot of credit goes to those who take that first step. You are ahead of the bandwagon.

  • Wendell Ellison

    It’s good to see a company with the resources and exposure of Wal-mart commit to this. As more and more companies follow their lead, the PV systems – both retail and residential – should decrease in cost, and increase in acceptance.

  • Wendell Ellison

    Part of the definition of sustainabiliity is “practical for use, and readily(to a reasonable standpoint) available”. So, if Wal-mart’s push for equipping its facilities is on the typical “Wal-mart scale” of doing things, and it drives down the cost of PV systems and components, I’m all for it.

    I don’t care if they make a “buck” by selling their own product to themselves – if there is any truth to the rumor of Wal-mart’s ownership in a certain PV company.

  • http://www.todaesolar.com.au wouter

    Better late than never, I think. Using solar is a great thing to do, it reduces your carbon footprint and it saves a lot of money on the long term.

  • berni page

    I live in Austria, and am building a house at the moment. We have just been awarded a grant from the government, to subsidize PV installation. the grant covers 30% of the cost, but its still VERY costly to install, approx 16,000 euros after the grant is applied.
    But our installer, who is a local guy, assures us that, we will have virtually NO electricity bill once we are up and running, and may even GET money from the energy company.
    payback time at current rates is 13 years, but, utilities costs always go up, not down, so we are very happy with the figures and also we are being GREEN!!

  • http://grafenwegnewhouse.blogspot.com berni page

    blog of our house build

  • seema

    The powers that be are actually doing a pretty good job at offering incentives to stimulate growth in the Solar industry and along with more installations will come a broader level of understanding of the knowledge required for DIY installations

  • styke

    Berni, can you give us a breakdown on costs?
    That is, how much were the panels themselves, the installation, the grid tie-in inverters, and the utility hookup?

  • http://grafenwegnewhouse.blogspot.com berni page

    I cannot give you a breakdown yet. Our installer is currently compiling a more detailed plan, that he must submit to our geminde (council). when I get a copy of this I will post the info.

  • http://toad.net/~jsmeenen Scott Meenen

    The word incentives is a code word for Government intervention. Someone knows how to buy this stuff at cost. I know from working on HVAC that most contractors never want the public or even other contractors to just be able to buy the equipment or at least make sure everyone pays a premium price for it except for them.

    I see more ads for solar training and contracting than the actual equipment itself.

  • http://toad.net/~jsmeenen Scott Meenen

    The phrases incentive and Tax breaks means government intervention. We need to have this stuff available to everyone and not a guarded secret to only allow the privileged few to be able to afford PV.

    If Walmart can sell the products as well as use them then will will be headed in the right direction, even if they have to come from China.

  • Rojelio

    I don’t think Wal-Mart is doing this solely for PR, although that probably helps. My guess is that the price and volume of solar are FINALLY hitting kind of a sweet spot that they can expect savings/profit in a short enough time.

    Another bright spot is Wal-Mart’s apparent intention to put local food on their shelves. I think this is necessary for survival because with contracting affordable oil supply, they can shift transport costs to local farmers and run less 18-wheelers themselves.

    In both cases, I think Wal-Mart is doing some very astute trend forecasting which will allow them to survive when other companies will crash and burn in the severe depression that we’re entering.


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