Report: Go Solar, Illinois

Solar on Superstores

Big roofs, big potential for renewable energy
Released by: Environment Illinois Research and Education Center

Solar electricity generation capacity has increased about 40-fold between 2010 and 2021, making solar energy the fastest growing form of electricity generation in the U.S. That growth is due to solar energy’s low and rapidly dropping price, the immensity of America’s solar resources, and public policies that make solar power a viable and economically attractive option for individuals and businesses.

America has only just begun to tap its solar resources. The United States has the technical potential to produce 78 times as much electricity as it used in 2020 just with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy. To accelerate the transition to a future of 100% clean and renewable energy, America must take advantage of untapped solar energy opportunities, including on the rooftops of “big box” superstores.

The flat, open, sunny roofs of giant grocery stores, retail stores and shopping malls are perfect locations for solar panels. The United States has more than 100,000 big box retail stores, supercenters, large grocery stores and malls, with almost 7.2 billion cumulative square feet of rooftop space.

The rooftops of America’s big box stores and shopping centers have the potential to generate 84.4 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar electricity each year, equivalent to the amount of electricity that would power almost 8 million average U.S. homes, or more than 30,400 typical Walmart stores. California, Florida, Texas, Ohio and Illinois have the largest big box store solar generation potential. 

Putting solar panels on the nation’s superstores would be good for businesses, good for electricity customers, good for the grid and good for the environment.