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Solar Power Has Big Potential on ND Retail Rooftops

New research shows North Dakota stores have lots of potential to save money and curb pollution by using rooftops of commercial buildings for solar power. (iStockphoto)
New research shows North Dakota stores have lots of potential to save money and curb pollution by using rooftops of commercial buildings for solar power. (iStockphoto)
February 24, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota has millions of square feet of untapped potential for solar power.

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

In North Dakota, that adds up to about 12 million square feet.

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

"We could offset carbon emissions in North Dakota by 122,000 metric tons, and the businesses could save $11 million on annual electricity spending, every year," he says.

The report notes if all North Dakota stores converted their rooftops, the move would generate enough electricity to power 12,000 homes in the state.

But some retailers have been slow to adopt solar technology. They cite the equipment cost, and say it can be difficult to install solar arrays on rooftops that are already cluttered with other machinery, like air conditioning units.

Still, Fanshaw says big-box retailers like Target, which has at least four locations in North Dakota, can help lead the way.

"Target has started to make progress," says Fanshaw. "We're really excited 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 says 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 - ND