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Solar energy has reached deeper into the grocery industry, with chains such as Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Whole Foods Markets installing solar panels on their roofs. A looming Dec. 31 deadline to gain tax advantages for these installations is pushing projects along.
Most chains have outfitted fewer than 10 percent of their stores so far. If Congress renews the tax provision and more states offer incentives, the grocers promise to shift the solar construction program into high gear with panels on the roofs of almost every big store in the country.
Kohl's, Macy's and BJ's Wholesale Club are also planning to go solar.
According to the New York Times, Wal-Mart has 17 stores and distribution centers with solar panels currently operating or in the test phase. Plans are to add five additional stores soon. The chain is considering a larger program that would have panels and other renewable technologies at hundreds of its stores. In lieu of purchasing a solar-power system, big retailers like Wal-Mart can work with a utility company that will pay the up-front costs and give the grocer a break on power bills. "It really helps make it economical for the retailer," said Kim Saylors-Laster, vp, energy for Wal-Mart.
"We're hoping that our purchases along with some other retailers will help bring the technology costs down," said Kathy Loftus, who is in charge of energy and other initiatives at Whole Foods Market.