13 August 2008

Green Greener Greenest

Mirror mirror on the wall who is the greenest of them all?
picture from Project Gutenberg via wikimedia

Announcements are coming out of the big box stores letting consumers know how green they are. Here are a few of them. Want to pick the winner?

From the New York Times
... the nation’s biggest store chains are coming to see their immense, flat roofs as an untapped resource. In recent months, chains including Wal-Mart Stores, Kohl’s, Safeway and Whole Foods Market have installed solar panels on roofs of their stores to generate electricity on a large scale. One reason they are racing is to beat a Dec. 31 deadline to gain tax advantages for these projects.

In the coming months, 85 Kohl’s stores will get solar panels; 43 already have them.

Macy’s, which has solar panels atop 18 stores, plans to install them on another 40 by the end of this year.

Safeway is aiming to put panels atop 23 stores. And other chains, including Whole Foods Market, BJ’s Wholesale Club and REI, the purveyor of outdoor goods, are planning projects of their own.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, has 17 stores and distribution centers with solar panels in operation or in the testing phase. It plans to add them soon to five more stores.

Depending on location and weather, the solar panels generate 10 to 40 percent of the power a store needs.
If Wal-Mart eventually covered the roofs of all its Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart locations with solar panels, figures from the company show that the resulting solar acreage would roughly equal the size of Manhattan , an island of 23 square miles.

Booming demand in recent years has driven up the price of solar panels, and analysts say it costs far more to generate electricity from solar energy than from coal.

Coal generation costs about 6 cents for a kilowatt hour, which is enough electricity to run a hair dryer for an hour.

Most of the efforts so far are in California , New Jersey and Connecticut , states that offer generous incentives.

Corporate officials describe a federal tax credit for renewable energy, one that Congress has let expire and then renewed several times, as particularly important.

Retailers are fast becoming energy experts. They are experimenting with traditional solar panels, a new type of thin solar panel and ground-mounted tracking systems that move with the sun. They are also combining those systems with other rooftop technologies like skylights and solar water heaters.

In Germany , there are none of the concerns you find in the United States about whether support will be around next year, said Jenny Chase, an energy analyst in London .
Retailers in the United States tend to buy their own solar-power systems, at $4 million to $6 million for a store the size of a Wal-Mart, or enter into an agreement with a utility company that pays the up-front costs and then gives the store a break on power bills — an approach that appeals to big chains.

Retailers are also looking at other ways to extend their use of renewable energy by testing technologies like wind turbines and reflective white roofs, which keep buildings cooler in warm weather.

Bernard Sosnick, an analyst with Gilford Securities who has examined Wal-Mart’s plans, said the day might come when people can pull their electric cars up to a store and recharge them with power from the roof or even from wind turbines in the parking lot.
It’s not as over the horizon as it might seem,he said. Picture from an outing on Grand Lake
For consumers, a trip to Ikea, will get the job done according to Green Business Times. If the other states would join the first three and offer tax incentives, more and more businesses would invest in a greener future.

And, if you would like your very own talking mirror, there is one. The Magic Message Mirror from Thematics can be yours .

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