For Ikea, More Roof Means More Solar Panels

You imagine Ikea’s renewable energy people greeting the news that the store in Stoughton, Mass., outside Boston, would be expanding with whoops and hollers and high-fives. Because at Ikea, more roof seems to mean more solar.

The company said this week that the solar capacity at the Stoughton outpost will grow from just under 600 kilowatts to 902.8 kW with the addition of 1,248 panels on the store’s 58,575-square-foot expansion.

ikea solar

The roof at the Ikea in Stoughton, Mass. (image via Ikea)

The new panels will boost annual electricity production at the store by an estimated 383,200 kilowatt-hours. With the average retail commercial price of electricity in Massachusetts at around 14.5 cents/kWh, you could look at that as $55,000 worth of added electricity. Every year. And, of course, this is electricity that won’t have to be provided from a power plant that’s likely to burn fossil fuels (in that region, about 12 percent of the electricity is generated from coal and 42 percent from natural gas, according to the EPA).

Ikea earlier this year met its goal of installing solar at 39 of its 44 locations, giving it 38 MW of generating capacity. (What’s with the five locations that haven’t gone solar? They’re generally smaller stores whose roofs don’t offer the footprint needed for panels, a company spokesman told us.)

A couple of things to note about these systems: (1) While many big retailers go the power-purchase-agreement route, Ikea owns its systems, taking on all the costs but also reaping all the benefits, both in terms of government incentives and energy bill savings; and (2) some of these systems are giant! The one at the Perryville, Md., distribution center that was completed in April has a generating capacity of 2.6 megawatts – the equivalent of 535 5-kW home systems.

As for Ikea Stoughton – a LEED certified building, by the way, with a green roof next to the first-phase solar system – the store and solar expansion should all be done by next summer.

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.