British supermarket chain Tesco, the fourth-largest retail chain in the world, is teaming up with Los Angeles-based Solar Integrated Technologies to build what is claimed to be the world's biggest roof-top solar panel installation. Solar Integrated won the $13 million contract to install solar panels on the roof of Tesco USA's new distribution center in Riverside, California.

The 2 MW Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) system will cover 500,000 square feet of the 640,000 square footage of roof space at the facility and is set to provide one fifth of the depot's power supply. This will effectively reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1,200 tons per annum. Solar Integrated Technologies has previously provided BIPV solutions for other large corporations including Frito-Lay (100 kW at one facility) and Cola-Cola (329kW at one facility).

This is not the first example of Tesco taking the lead in reducing their environmental impacts, just two weeks ago they pledged to set an environmentally friendly example to its millions of customers by spending more than 500 million pounds ($987 million), cutting prices on energy-efficient products and reducing pollution. Previously, Tesco reduced their energy consumption per square foot by 35 percent over the eight years to 2006.

Running a chain of petrol stations in addition to their supermarket chain, Tesco is also the United Kingdom's market leader in the sales of biofuels. Their sales of biofuel blends will see emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, cut by more than 70,000 tonnes per annum.

Tesco has embraced biofuels in their own distribution fleet, announcing last month that is now running run three-quarters of its fleet on a B50 biodiesel blend which is made from 50 percent biodiesel and 50 percent petroleum diesel. The Tesco fleet of 2,000 lorries will be the first major fleet in the U.K. to use B50. The reduction in the whole-of-life emissions through the move to B50 is equivalent to the removal of over 20,000 medium sized cars off the road.

Last year Google made headlines by announcing that they would install around 9,000 solar panels at their corporate campus as parking shades and on roofs to provide 1.6-megawatts of solar power - enough to cover 30 percent of Google's power needs.

Analysis: Corporate solar is a growth industry providing companies with an opportunity to reduce their often massive electricity bills while highlighting their green credentials. Expect to see more and more companies with a reputation for aggressively focusing on their bottom line to install BIPV systems which will have a positive impact on the grid as a whole.

As Michael Brylawski of the Rocky Mountain Institute said in part three of his feature interview, "(plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) PHEVs could form a synergy of sort with 'intermittent' renewables like wind and solar... PHEVs being plugged in at night, and quite possibly at the office during the day, could offer a strong alternative for buffering renewables." Increased renewable electricity generation goes hand in hand with the take-up of PHEVs providing a holistic alternative to simply generating enough electricity to meet peak demand and wasting the rest.

[Source: Reuters]

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