Ikea’s Solar Blitz Adding Up To Massive Power

Looking for signs that renewable energy is gaining real traction? We present Ikea.

Back in the day, every single solar installation from the purveyor of cheap and cheerful home furnishings was news. Now, Ikea solarizing a store is as common as, well, a birch veneer bookshelf. That’s got to be a sign of progress.

Ikea solar

West Sacramento, Calif., Ikea solar installation. (image via Ikea)

Already this month, Ikea has unveiled solar power arrays in Florida, Virginia, Texas, Michigan and, most recently, Pennsylvania. That flourish of installations brings the company’s U.S. total to 22 completed solar projects. (Update: Make that 23. A few hours after this story went up, Ikea announced the completion of another system, just over 1 megawatt, in Georgia.)

But what really demands emphasis here – it’s the reason we’re writing this little love note to our Swedish friends – is the gigantic amount of generating capacity that Ikea’s solarizing adds up to. This is real energy being produced by Ikea; the company isn’t buying renewable energy credits of sometimes dubious value to give itself a green sheen.

Consider: When it finishes the 16 additional U.S. projects that are now under way, Ikea will have 38 megawatts of generating capacity on its rooftops, the company says. To put that in perspective, the largest U.S. utility-scale PV plant east of the Mississippi is the Long Island Solar Farm, with a generating capacity of 32 MW.

What Ikea demonstrates is the immense solar-generating capacity available on commercial rooftops. And remember, there are distinct advantages to going solar this way versus pursuing the big utility-scale power plant model.

As the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said in a 2008 report [PDF], “By deploying photovoltaics on building rooftops, there is little to no cost associated with land, and the system is deployed at the point of use, which minimizes transmission and distribution requirements and losses.”

The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes the vast possibilities on commercial rooftops – that’s why it’s backing Project Amp with a $1.4 billion loan guarantee. That project aims to put around 750 MW of PV on existing rooftops owned and managed by Prologis – amounting to about 80 percent of the total PV that was installed in the United States as of 2010. While the government is helping out by backing loans for Project Amp, at least a billion dollars more is being poured into the program from private sources, with NRG joining Prologis as an investor.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Kyle Sager

    Love this article!!! Thank you for posting it.  The thing I like to observe: Since Southern Company has committed to a paltry 50 MW of solar across it’s footprint (7 states now, over 4 million customers): IKEA is pretty much committing as much to solar as THE LARGEST UTILITY COMPANY IN THE COUNTRY.  Awesome for IKEA.  Pathetic for Southern Company.  Southern Company should be talking gigawatts.  Solar is barely 1/10th of 1 percent of their portfolio  How lame.  http://heliocurrent.com/the-sun-furnishes-ikea-with-power/    kyle sager, heliocurrent, atlanta, ga heliocurrent.com

    • Pete

      Kyle — Wow, that’s remarkable that Southern Company has such a lame commitment to solar. Did not realize that, but looking at SEIA data on installations in the first quarter of 2012, it makes sense: There are just a few states in the South the top 23 in new installations, and they are far behind northern states like New Jersey and Massachusetts. Don’t they call it the Sun Belt???
      Cheers,
      Pete Danko

  • john whitehurst

    Nice glad to see it being done.
    One question, waht do they do after the sun sets.. Batteries or what.

    • EverybodySolar

      John – in most states they are likely “net metering”, which means they generate more energy than they need during the day which feeds back into the grid and gets sent to other users, then at night they get any energy they need from the grid. This way they don’t need batteries.

  • Depending on the State they can likely Net Meter.