Tesco Does Biggest Solar Roof & Carbon Labelling


"We believe this will be the largest roof-mounted solar installation in the world," said R. Randall MacEwen last week. We suspect he made the announcement with a rather large smile on his face, because Solar Integrated Technologies, the company of which he is CEO, had just been awarded the contract for $13 million USD to install the system. The company handing Randall the cash is from far across the Atlantic. Tesco, whom we've been hearing a bit from recently, is said to collect about one third of all the pennies spent in British supermarkets. This 'largest in the world' exercise will involve a BIPV (building integrated photovoltaic) system atop of Tesco USA's distribution centre in California, and according to Randall will save 1,200 tons of CO2 emissions, whilst providing a fifth of the buildings power needs. (It will generate 2.6 million kilowatts from 500,000 square feet of panels). So, why is the world's fourth largest supermarket chain going green seemingly all of a sudden? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there is very little margin in grocery lines, money is made by throughput, and for that you need a loyal customer base. Could it be Tescos are listening to their customers? As we've noted before they have a whole wobbly wheeled trolley full of green initiatives on the go, to win shoppers hearts and minds. We note just a few after the fold.One of the most novel moves will be to label those goods which arrived on its shelves via air transport. This 'carbon footprint labelling' will show the symbol of plane so customers can make purchasing choices also based on the CO2 embodied in their goods and produce. Tesco must expect this will be a big move because they also indicated they plan to restrict air transport to 1% of their stock. Oh and they reckon they'll halve the cost of compact fluoro light bulbs too.

Their new eco-store, that we alluded to in an earlier post will have a 50% smaller carbon footprint, partially due to wind and solar power but also because it will use alternative cooling technologies instead of air conditioning. The roof will harvest 1 million litres of rainwater annually. Building materials were shipped to the construction site via, well ... ship (!) eliminating 75 truck trips. Speaking of road travel, the company said they are moving 75% of their 2,000 lorry fleet to a B50 50% biodiesel blend to help reduce their corporate CO2 emissions by more than 70,000 tonnes per annum. Aside from running on on the stuff, they also sell it and have teamed up with Greenergy Fuels to construct a plant which should com one online this month with the capacity to supply 100,000 tonnes of biodiesel per year.

Throughout the UK they now offer a 10p (20c US) shopping 'Bag for Life' (should it wear out, they'll replace it for free.) and give a Clubcard members a point for every time they refuse a new plastic bag. According to the company they've already saved 200 million bags from being used. This month Tesco expect their customers to bring in over 60 million Christmas cards, or about a thousand tonnes of paper for recycling.

Many of these endeavours spring from Tesco's £100 million Environment Fund launched in early 2006, but at least one or two, or even three remain sceptical that such a powerful industry force can ever be really environmentally and socially responsible. But as the giant retailer themselves put it "... it is what our customers want and it makes good business sense." ::Tesco on Environment.

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