Whether it was planting millions of trees, turning food waste into electricity or using smart grid technology to slash its energy use, British supermarket Sainsbury's has been slowly but surely beefing up its sustainability credentials.
The company is currently on track to have 40MW of solar installed by the Spring of 2015. This is a big deal in Britain, which so far hasn't seen the same scale of commercial rooftop solar roll out being pushed here in the US.
What's even more of a big deal, I think, is the fact that Sainsbury's is making clear that this is not simply a PR exercise. Here's how Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Engineering, Energy & Environment at Sainsbury’s puts it:
“Sainsbury’s is now the largest multi-roof solar panel operator in Europe, having successfully installed 135,500 PV panels on the roofs of over 218 properties, and we will have 170,000 panels generating 40 MW by spring 2015. This is key to enabling us to take control of our energy costs and minimise our environmental impact and achieve the environmental commitments we made in our 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan. Supermarkets have the equivalent of football fields on their roofs, many of them underutilised so it is ideal for turning that space into something positive.”
A new report on commercial rooftop solar, released in conjunction with Sainsbury's, Solarcentury and financial and professional services firm JLL, highlights the multiple benefits of commercial rooftop solar for businesses in the UK. Showcasing solar installations at companies like Jaguar and Butcher's Pet Care, the report looks at how to best measure solar's value on commercial real estate, and suggests companies like Jaguar and Butcher's are seeing returns of well over 5% on their investment.
Here's how Chris Strathon, Director in Valuation at JLL, makes the case:
“This is the first in-depth research into understanding the impact of solar and it is clear the majority of commercial roof space is untapped as an additional revenue provider. The research is timely given the recent surge in demand for solar on commercial roofs, driven by new legislation and increasing awareness of the opportunity to monetise the large unused roof spaces of commercial properties. We believe rooftop solar on commercial property adds value by improving the marketability of a property to occupiers who are driven by cost or CSR objectives, and additional income which is received via power purchase agreements and government-backed tariffs.”
Some time ago, I defended Apple's Tim Cook against anti-renewables activists. At the time I argued that so called "Profits First" policies, which these activists were pushing as a way to curtail Apple's renewables investment, blatantly ignore the long-term business case for betting on renewables.
It's gratifying to see some people putting together some hard numbers that back up my musings.