IKEA building almost as much solar as Southern Company

IKEA has already deployed more solar power than Southern Company, and plans almost as much as SO’s total planned solar generation. Remind me, which one is the energy company? Maybe we need to elect people who will remind Southern Company and Georgia Power.

Remember Southern Company bragged earlier this month about its first big solar project coming online, 1 megawatt in Upson? IKEA plans to install that much solar in Atlanta this year on top of its furniture store:

Atlanta, Georgia: With a store size of 366,000 square feet, ft2 (~34,000 square metres, m2) on 15 acres (~6 hectares), the solar program will use 129,800 ft2 (~12,060 m2) at 1,038 kilowatts (kW) with 4,326 solar panels generating 1,421,300kWh/year. This is equivalent to reducing 1,080 tons of carbon-dioxide (CO2), 192 cars’ emissions or powering 122 homes.

IKEA plans more than that in Savannah, 1.5 megawatts:

Savannah, Georgia Distribution Centre: With a size of 750,000 ft2 (~69,700 m2) on 115 acres (~46.5 hectares), the solar program will use 187,500 ft2 (~17,400 m2) at 1,500kW with 6,250 solar panels generating 2,029,500kWh/year. This is equivalent to reducing 1,542 tons of CO2, 274 cars’ emissions or powering 175 homes.

Sure, but Southern Company already did it first, right? Nope, IKEA already powered up a megawatt in Houston, and already had some in Frisco and Round Rock, Texas, making IKEA already the largest solar owner in Texas.

As Kirsty Hessman put it in Earth Techling 8 December 2011,

They don’t call it the Sunbelt for nothing, and Ikea plans to take full advantage of the salubrious solar situation down South.

That was when IKEA was planning the Houston, Frisco, and Round Rock, Texas solar installations. Half a year later, they’re up and running. When will your new nukes be finished (if ever), Southern Company?

But back to solar. According to IKEA PR 9 July 2012, IKEA plans 38 MW of solar:

This investment by IKEA reinforces the company’s long-term commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology. IKEA owns and operates each of its solar PV energy systems atop its buildings—as opposed to a solar lease or PPA (power purchase agreement). The Houston installation represents the 19th completed solar energy project for IKEA in the United States, with 20 more installations underway, making the eventual U.S. solar presence of IKEA nearly 89% with a total generation of 38 MW.

38 MW is almost as much solar generation as the 50 MW GA PSC required Georgia Power to produce.

Well, maybe IKEA is bigger than SO? Nope, Southern Company has a market cap of about $41.51 billion and estimates of private company IKEA’s size indicate it’s about the same size. Which one is supposed to have energy as its primary business?

Why is IKEA doing this?

IKEA Expects Long-Term Savings from Rooftop Solar Rollout

IKEA is pursuing a massive clean-energy program with the installation of solar panels on at least 20 of its 44 U.S. locations. In addition to slashing its need for power generated by fossil-fuel-fired power plants, the home furnishings retailer expects to reduce its long-term operating costs with lower utility bills.

“About a year ago, IKEA made the decision to begin evaluating every location around the world for sustainability,” says Joseph Roth, the company’s national director of public affairs. “We looked not just at stores, but at offices, distribution centers and vacant pieces of land to see what was feasible.”

Less pollution, lower operating costs, and sustainability from the sun, using square footage that doesn’t require any land clearing or get in the way of other uses. Wait, shouldn’t those all be good reasons for Georgia Power, a regulated public utility?

And then there’s Moore’s Law pushing down solar prices:

“It became clearer and clearer to us that it was a much more straightforward process and technology than it used to be,” Roth says of the Tempe installation. “And it was more financially feasible as well.”

Kyle Sager wrote for heliocurrent 9 July 2012,

As I look at my calendar, as of July 9, 2012, Southern Company, the LARGEST ELECTRIC UTILITY COMPANY IN THE COUNTRY, is committed to see all of 50 MW installed across its entire footprint comprising 6 states and somewhere well north of 4 million customers. Do we see a pattern here? Hey Southern Company, I stop drawing comparisons when you stand aside and let the Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi state legislatures fashion 3rd party PPA (power purchase agreements) and leases that make it very easy for homeowners and businesses to choose solar. If IKEA can do this just for their own stores, your commitment should be VASTLY larger. You must also encourage the advent of rooftop solar incentives without caps that are at a minimum marginally more attractive than the aggregate federal incentives devoted to coal and other fossils today.

He informs us of Georgia political jargon:

In the halls of Georgia’s legislature we have a very dirty word (well phrase) for this kind of insidious insurrection. It’s called (shhhh, whisper it, “CHERRY PICKING”). OK I’m not really kidding anymore. The lobbyists really do call it cherry picking in Georgia when they argue against 3rd party PPA financing because they don’t want anybody competing for bigger customers (much less any customers). What kind of nonsense is this? IKEA?? We must get far more creative at blocking solar in state legislatures, because IKEA just end-arounded everybody and cherry picked themselves!

IKEA can generate all that solar power because they’re generating it for themselves, and they can afford to self-finance. You, on the other hand, will find it hard to get financing. And if you want to hire somebody to generate solar power for you or generate enough yourself to sell to somebody else (other than your one-and-only local power company), that’s illegal in Georgia! Back in 1973 Georgia passed the Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act and neither Southern Company or Georgia Power wants to change it. (I asked both their CEOs.)

There’s an election going on. We could elect people who will change it anyway.




3 thoughts on “IKEA building almost as much solar as Southern Company

  1. Kyle Sager

    Haha!! I do not think anyone has ever quoted me before in my whole life! I am honored! I would not be happier if this was Washington Post. I am LOVING LAKE! Awesome blog. You picked one of my favourite topics, too: Cherry picking. My daughters and I love cherries…I want to one day see Georgia COVERED in cherries…if you catch my drift.

  2. Thermal Solar Panels

    I couldn’t agree more with Kyle’s quote. If you are an energy supplier, you should be providing more of your chosen energy than a home furniture store. I can’t really believe that I’m actually saying that with any amount of seriousness.

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