Powering up

The roof of the Austintown Walmart glistens with row upon row of large blue glass panels facing southward to catch the sun’s rays. The solar panels – 780 in all – installed over the warm summer months when the sun was more prevalent in northeast Ohio, still were doing their job this week despite dipping temperatures and flurrying snow.

The Austintown location is one of a dozen Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in Ohio that now have rooftops filled with solar panels. The Liberty Walmart features more than 1,900 panels.

Company officials said that in all, the solar panel installations will add approximately 6 million kilowatt hours of generation production, or enough energy to power more than 820 homes. The panels are expected to supply 10 percent to 15 percent of each store’s overall electricity use.

“Walmart’s installation of solar on 12 store rooftops is the largest solar commitment ever made by a retail business in Ohio,” said Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio. “At more than four and a half megawatts, it represents almost a tenth of all the solar installed in Ohio currently.”

Ultimately, the company aspires to become 100 percent powered by renewable energy.

”We are committed to increasing the use of renewable energy resources, including solar panels, at our stores in Ohio and throughout the country,” said David Ozment, Walmart senior director of energy.

The U.S. EPA Green Power Partnership program ranks Walmart as the largest onsite green power generator in the U.S.

Walmart operates more than 10,700 stores in 27 countries and reported 2012 fiscal year sales of approximately $444 billion. The company employs more than 2.2 million people worldwide.