A process that has been in the making for the last year is about to come to fruition at Wal-Mart in Toledo, Ohio, as it's one of several Ohio Wal-Mart locations to receive solar power arrays mounted on the roof to generate power for the big box magnate.
The array has been, at last report, switched on, and is already generating wattage for the store to use.
Toledo, according to Wal-Mart officials, is just one of a dozen different Wal-Mart and Sam's Club warehouse store locations throughout Ohio that are getting the solar power boost. Additional Wal-Mart and Sam's Club facilities include locations in Austintown, Franklin, Greenville, Mason, Middletown, Milford, Loveland, Xenia and Youngstown.
Additionally, there are two such solar powered stores now in Cincinnati.
However, the impact here is perhaps more significant than anyone saw coming. The panels are located on the broad roofs of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations, making them largely invisible from the ground. But out of sight doesn't mean out of mind, as the panels now mean that not only is Wal-Mart the largest consumer of solar power in Ohio, but also that Wal-Mart's installations increase the overall amount of solar power generated in Ohio by fully 10 percent.
What's more, Wal-Mart officials suggest there are more such installations planned for future development.
This actually represents a bigger possibility that some have discussed previously. While solar panels are usually expensive, and tough to locate in any great numbers – they also often have the effect of displacing farm and grazing land when used in "farm" style configurations – if they’re put on the tops of buildings, where little is going on anyway, the panels become much more useful.
Indeed, some have even advocated that individual houses start putting solar panels on their roofs so as to generate at least some of their power, decentralizing the power grid and reducing the need for coal, nuclear and similar power systems.
While solar and wind power aren't likely to replace coal and nuclear – both are truly too unreliable to serve as a full replacement – they can certainly serve as an augmentation, a way to take some of the heat off coal and nuclear, letting those operations scale back a bit, providing the reliable base of power production while not having to handle the whole thing.
It's a terrific synthesis of green power and traditional power sources, allowing the reliable, yet inherently limited burnable power systems to continue to operate and provide that basic level of power, while using the empty roof space of houses everywhere to generate the rest of power needed.
Wal-Mart may be on to something here, and the more this kind of approach catches on, the better off we'll all likely be in the end.
Edited by Braden Becker