Sainsbury’s has today revealed that it has installed over 69,500 solar panels on its stores, laying claim to the title of Europe’s top solar generator.
The company said that it now boasts 16MW of solar capacity spread across 169 of its 572 UK supermarkets, meaning that collectively the firm manages the largest solar array in Europe.
It added that combined the solar panels cover 24 football pitches, while reducing the supermarket giant’s carbon footprint by an estimated 6,800 tonnes a year.
The company refused to be drawn on the scale of the investment, but a spokeswoman toldBusinessGreen the solar rollout was set to continue as the company looks to make good on its 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan, which contains pledges to cut operational carbon emissions 30 per cent against 2005 levels by 2020.
“This solar rollout is another big step forward,” said Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, in a statement. “It makes sense for us – it’s good for the environment and for our business and we are actively looking to install more panels.”
He also urged other retailers to “take another look” at investing in solar energy. “Supermarkets have the equivalent of football fields on their roofs, many of them underutilised,” he added. “It’s a perfect time to turn that space into something positive.
“Big contracts like this support job creation in the renewable energy sector and are essential for our solar industry to thrive. We believe that we’ll see the cost of solar energy reaching parity with the grid on commercial installations like this in the next two and four years, and that may well herald a new boom in the solar industry.”
The announcement was welcomed by head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, Andrew Pendleton, who hailed the news as evidence that “firms across the UK are waking up to the business benefits of using clean British energy from the sun, wind and waves to reduce our reliance on increasingly expensive fossil fuels”.
The news represents a major boost to the UK’s solar industry, which this week responded to the latest wave of government cuts to feed-in tariff incentives by stressing that the falling cost of solar panels means businesses and households can still generate attractive financial returns from installing solar panels.
King had previously protested over the government’s handling of cuts to incentives last year, clashing with then Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne on Question Time over his department’s decision to rush through changes to the subsidy regime at short notice.
However, the company’s continued investment suggests it has decided investments in solar arrays can still generate acceptable levels of return.
The news comes just weeks after Sainsbury’s also announced a major new programme to install ground source heat pumps at around 100 of its stores, in a move designed to curb emissions from heating and cooling.