New Ikea Rooftop Solar Install Is Ridiculously Big

A new rooftop solar power installation for Ikea? These have become so common, it would have to be pretty special to earn an EarthTechling story. And it is.

It’s Ikea’s biggest installation yet: a 768,972-square-foot PV array consisting of 18,576 PV panels that have a total generating capacity of more than 2.6 megawatts. To give you a sense of the size of this system – which went in on the roof of a Perryville, Md., distribution center – consider this: The average home solar setup is around 5 kilowatts. That means Ikea just installed the equivalent of about 535 home solar power systems.

ikea solar perryville maryland

The solar power system on the Perryville, Md., distribution center is expected to produce about 3.4 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually. (image via Ikea)

“As one of the largest rooftop arrays in the country, this installation will ensure that the IKEA Perryville distribution center consumes very little power from the electric grid,” Ed Morris, Perryville Distribution Center manager, said in a statement.

According to an industry report last September, Walmart was the clear leader in installed solar capacity among U.S. companies, with 65 megawatts, with Costco (38.9 MW) and Kohl’s (36.5 MW) battling for second, and Ikea staking out fourth place (21.5 MW). Of course, Walmart has a big advantage: It has more than 4,000 retail outlets in the United States. Measured by percentage of stores with solar power systems, Ikea was the big winner, with solar at 79 percent of its stores, far outdistancing second-place REI at 20 percent, followed by Costco (14 percent) and Kohl’s (11 percent).

With Perryville completed and three more system installations currently under way, Ikea said it is now closing in on having solar at 90 percent of its locations, for a total of 38 MW.

Beyond high solar penetration rate, another thing that distinguishes Ikea is how it goes about doing solar. These days, most giant rooftop systems are owned by solar developers, who shoulder the upfront installation costs and sell the power (at a low, stable price) back to the building owner/tenant through a power purchase or lease agreement.

Ikea likes to own.

The company said that around the world it “has allocated $1.8 billion to invest in renewable energy through 2015. This investment reinforces the long-term commitment of IKEA to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology.”

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.