Walmart Powers Up First On-Site Wind Turbine

Just last week, Walmart switched on its 100th on-site solar installation in California – now the world’s biggest retailer is adding its first big wind turbine.

The 256-foot-high, 1 megawatt turbine will begin producing power at its Red Bluff, California distribution center this month.

As is does with solar, rather than paying upfront for the wind turbine and its installation, Walmart signed a 15 year power purchase agreement (PPA) to buy the electricity it produces. Foundation Windpower is building and maintaining the turbine through a $5.5 million construction loan.

The turbine will supply 15-20% of the electricity for the Red Bluff distribution center and will save money from day one because of the PPA.

Walmart ranked No. 1 on the EPA’s list of top US on-site clean energy generators released in early July, and has a goal of using 100% renewable energy.

Its solar projects have garnered the most attention, but the company also has wind investments.

In California and Massachusetts stores, for example, Walmart uses micro-turbines that sit on top of light poles and generate 2-3 kilowatts of electricity each. It’s not practical to put big wind turbines there because of permitting issues, the company says, and besides they’d produce more energy than individual stores need.

According to its 2012 corporate sustainability report, Walmart has five utility-scale on-site wind projects in operation or under development in Mexico, the US and the UK, totaling 470 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable energy a year.

Those projects include:

  • 348 stores in Mexico are supplied by wind power through an agreement with Eléctrica del Valle de Mexico via its state-of the-art wind farm. This arrangemenet supplies 17% of the electricity of Walmart Mexico.
  • 350 stores in Texas receive up to 15% of their electricity through a four-year agreement to purchase clean energy from Duke Energy’s wind farm in Notrees, Texas.
  • 14 stores in Northern Ireland are 100% supplied by wind power.
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