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Yuba City Walmart sports solar flair
High up on the rooftop, invisible to customers, sunlight glints off tiny rectangles of cerulean blue, soon to be harnessed into energy to power the Yuba City Walmart.
The corporate retailer is partnering with SolarCity to add panels to more than 20 stores in California and Arizona, and the Mid-Valley location was selected for the environmental upgrade. On Monday, crews were busy connecting the freeways of wire for the southern-facing panels, which are expected to start generating renewable energy in mid-October.
The 2,520 panels should provide between 20 percent to 30 percent of the store's annual energy needs, said Tiffany Moffatt, regional media director for Wal-Mart. Solar City owns and maintains the system and will sell the power to Walmart.
"Sustainabilty is a key focus in our day-to-day operations and this helps us move toward our sustainability goal," Moffatt said.
California is a leader in driving renewable energy and development, which makes it a prime area for Wal-Mart to increase its renewable power sources, Moffatt said. The demand for renewable energy also helps create and support green jobs.
Yuba City was selected from among other stores in California because it met the corporation's screening criteria for optimal solar power generation, Moffatt said. Installation began Sept. 1. The 580-kilowatt system is projected to produced about 650,000 kilowatt hours a year. SolarCity is installing a new thin film technology that will be lighter, less expensive and use less raw material than traditional panels.
If Walmart can show success with the newer technology, it will commercialize the technology and eventually lower the cost for others, said Jonathan Bass, SolarCity spokesperson.
The panels will take direct sunlight and convert it into electricity that can be used by the store directly or, if producing more than the store use at that time, send power back to the grid.
"Panels will produce more on sunny days and more on summer days than winter days, but they generally produce anytime there is light," Bass said. "It starts early in the morning at a relatively low level, peaks at mid-day and gradually fades."
Yuba City was a prime location for such a solar array, Bass said. The region has already shown great success with a 394-kilowatt array it installed in October at Montna Farms.
"Sunlight is free, it doesn't have to be mined, it doesn't produce emissions," he said. "Yuba City has excellent sun installation, which is exposure."
Through the Power Purchase Agreement with Wal-Mart, SolarCity will sell the renewable energy generated by the panels back to the corporation at a rate lower to or comparable to traditional energy sources, Bass said.
In addition to the Walmart and Montna Farms solar arrays, Yuba-Sutter is also home to an 880-kilowatt system at Sutter Basin Growers Cooperative near Knights Landing and a 1.3 kilowatt array at the Yuba City wastewater treatment plant.