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David Murray’s Blog

What's Bringing President Obama to Walmart?

David Murray

Posted May 9, 2014

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It’s not the everyday low prices. No, not even professional family photos with Bo and Sunny. It’s about businesses making smart decisions about energy.

Today, the President will visit Mountain View, California’s Walmart to announce big news for solar power and energy efficiency. Walmart is already a commercial leader in solar installations, but is committing to double the number of panels on its store roofs in the next six years, harnessing 7 million MWh of clean energy by 2020. But not just Walmart thinks solar power is great idea. Today the President is announcing 300 private and sector commitments to advance solar deployment, representing 850 MW of electricity, enough to power 130,000 homes. The industry is growing at breakneck speed, and President Obama is directing his Administration to ensure the American workforce can keep up the momentum.

The President Visits Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility in Boulder City, NV. Credit: Whitehouse.govSince Obama took office, the U.S. had just 1.2 GW of solar capacity; today that number stands at a whopping 13 GW. That’s enough to power 2 million American homes. Not to mention, that’s 2 million fewer homes we have to power to polluting coal or natural gas.  The industry boasted more than 140,000 jobs in 2013, a 20% increase since the previous year. So what’s next for solar?

Clean Energy 101: The President will direct the Department of Energy to invest in community colleges in 49 states to prepare 50,000 students to enter the solar industry by 2020. Solar energy- whether its photovoltaic or thermal- is not only complex, but is becoming increasingly specialized as new technologies hit the market. From the a 1,700 acre concentrated solar plant (CSP) in California to a 10’ x 10’ pair of photovoltaic panels on a rooftop in New Jersey, the growth of solar in the coming years will demand a diverse, skilled workforce. By developing the Department of Energy’s Solar Instructor Training Network, more Americans will have the exciting opportunity to be a part of the clean energy economy.

Sustainable Housing: The DoE and Department of Housing and Urban Development will partner to advance education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to bolster energy literacy and employment in low-income communities and public housing projects across the country.

Clarity and Consistency in the Tax Code: The DOE will be releasing an updated and revised Guide to Federal Financing for Clean Energy. This excellent tool assists Americans to identify energy efficiency and renewable financing programs in Federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Treasury and Environmental Protection Agency.

NRDC looks forward to being a part of the solar industry’s rapid growth. Last fall, we launched our Solar Schools program, an innovative way for communities from North Carolina to California to crowdfund solar projects on their local schools. To learn more, read NRDC Director of Renewable Policy Nathanael Greene’s blog on this exciting project. Our affiliate organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), is tracking the growth in the clean energy economy, noting where companies are hiring new workers to help manufacture solar panels and install PV systems on roofs. To see where solar is hiring in your state, please visit Last year, E2 tracked more than 21,600 jobs announcements in solar generation alone!

But wait! Solar is just one of the President's exciting announcements today. Mr. Obama is also setting exciting new energy efficiency standards, that together with other efficiency standards that his administration has issued will save a whopping 2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution through 2030. To get the inside scoop from an expert, check out my colleague Kit Kennedy's blog on how new efficiency standards will save our economy billions in the coming decade.

Our 100% clean energy future is on the horizon, let’s join our President and support its continued progress.

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Mark StoutMay 11 2014 11:26 PM

Thanks for the good blog post, David.

A catch on one of the Wal-Mart figures, "harnessing 7 million GWh of clean energy by 2020." That's 7,000 terrawatt-hours, almost double the ~4,000 terrawatt-hours annual US electricity consumption ( ).

Let's assume that GWh energy figure was spread over ten years, from 2011-2020. At a not unreasonable assumption of a 23% capacity factor (or 2,000 kWh/kWdc/year), Walmart would need to have depolyed a time-weighted-average of 350 GWdc. That sounds quite a bit high, about three times the amount of PV currently installed on the planet.

7 million GWh = 2,000 kWh/kWdc/year * 10 years * 350 GWdc

Perhaps the unit of energy (GWH) is wrong?

David MurrayMay 12 2014 10:37 AM

Great catch, Mark. There was indeed a typo on Walmart's solar figure; I had intended to write MWh instead of GWh. Thank you for noting this!

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