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Solar Power's Untapped Potential in South Dakota

A new report on rooftop solar shows South Dakota stores have lots of potential to save money and curb pollution. (iStockphoto)
A new report on rooftop solar shows South Dakota stores have lots of potential to save money and curb pollution. (iStockphoto)
February 23, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota has millions of square feet of untapped potential for solar power.

That's one finding of a recent report, entitled Solar on Superstores, which looks at how the unused rooftop space of big-box stores could generate clean-energy.

In South Dakota, that adds up to about 15 million square feet.

Bret Fanshaw, solar program coordinator at Environment America and report coauthor, says if South Dakota stores re-purpose these flat, vacant areas, it could eventually have multiple benefits for the state.

"South Dakota has the potential to limit their carbon emissions by 148,000 metric tons," says Fanshaw. "They could save $14 million on annual electricity spending by going solar."

The report notes if South Dakota stores fully converted their rooftops, which are almost always fully exposed to the sun, the move would generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

Some retailers, however, have been slow to adopt solar technology. They say it can cost too much to buy the equipment. It can also be difficult to install solar arrays on roofs that are already cluttered with other machines, like air conditioning units.

Still, Fanshaw says big box retailers – like Target, which has at least five locations in South Dakota – can help lead the way.

"Target has started to make progress," says Fanshaw. "We're really excited that they, last year ,committed to putting solar on 500 of their stores by 2020. And we think the next step should be for them to commit to realizing their full potential and put solar on all their stores."

The report also finds if every retailer in the country converted to rooftop solar, it could reduce the same amount of pollution as taking about 12 million cars off the road.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD