One of Alabama’s largest solar facilities, built to provide power to Walmart in an effort to help the retailer meet its environmental management goals, is not just about renewable energy. The facility was built with sensitivity to the environment, including detention ponds to capture rainwater, helping prevent erosion and protecting water quality, according to Energy Manager Today. Tree stumps removed during construction were ground into mulch and used across the site to also prevent erosion, until grass planted throughout the facility had a chance to sprout and grow.
Alabama Solar A, as it’s called, is a 72 MW facility built by Swinerton Renewable Energy, based in San Diego, and is operated by Boise, ID-based Clenera. Alabama Power has a long-term power purchase agreement with Centaurus Renewable Energy, the primary owner of the facility, to use all of the energy from the project, which it will then use for its own customers and resell to others like Walmart.
The $140 million project began producing electricity this week thanks to 338,000 solar panels that automatically track the sun for optimum efficiency. About 57,000 pilings were installed in 4,000 rows to create the solar energy facility.
Renewable energy will be cost-effective for Alabama Power customers because of the long-term agreements, according to Solar Industry Mag.
In the company’s most recent sustainability report, Walmart reaffirmed its commitment to being powered by 50% renewable energy by 2025 and to reduce emissions in its own operations by 18%
While Walmart has been historically known for is mission to offer low prices, for more than a decade the company has also been focused on being a sustainability leader. Those two missions, by necessity, go hand-in-hand, Katherine Neebe, Walmart’s director of sustainability, told the Huffington Post in December. Climate change is an urgent challenge that poses a potential risk to Walmart’s business, customers, associates and the whole value chain, she says.
Additionally, she says, “From a brass tack standpoint, the efficiency gains that you get through programs like energy efficiency and operating a smarter, better system, result in some real financial savings.”