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Supermarkets have the equivalent of football fields on their roofs, many of them underutilised

Sainsbury’s has installed 69,500 new photovoltaic solar panels, or 16 MW of power, across 169 stores in the UK. The significant investment, the company believes, means collectively Sainsbury’s supermarkets currently host the largest solar array in the UK and Europe – large enough to cover Wembley’s pitch 24 times. The solar power will reduce Sainsbury’s total CO2 emissions by an estimated 6,800 tonnes per year and each store’s energy consumption as well as delivering energy cost savings.

The retailer worked closely with solar manufacturing and installation businesses to make the contract viable and find the most efficient and cost-effective way to execute the project across its store estate.

Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “We’ve already made real progress towards achieving our environmental commitments detailed in our stretching 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan. This solar rollout is another big step forward. It makes sense for us – it’s good for the environment and for our business and we are actively looking to install more panels.

“We already produce far more solar power than most commercial solar farms. We believe the retail sector should take another look at solar energy as a viable way to reduce its impact on the environment. Supermarkets have the equivalent of football fields on their roofs, many of them underutilised. It’s a perfect time to turn that space into something positive.

  • Sainsbury’s has installed 69,500 new solar panels to generate 16 megawatts (MW) of power – enough for 4,100 homes (or 332 million cups of tea)
  • Its supermarkets host largest solar array in the UK and Europe – enough to cover 24 football pitches, or if placed side by side would span four marathons or 665 laps of the London 2012 Velodrome

“Big contracts like this support job creation in the renewable energy sector and are essential for our solar industry to thrive. We believe that we’ll see the cost of solar energy reaching parity with the grid on commercial installations like this in the next two and four years, and that may well herald a new boom in the solar industry.”

Welcoming the news, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth’s, Andrew Pendleton, said; “This major solar investment will make Sainsbury’s a greener grocer and gives a significant boost to the UK’s renewable energy sector.

“Firms across the UK are waking up to the business benefits of using clean British energy from the sun, wind and waves to reduce our reliance on increasingly expensive fossil fuels. It’s little surprise that 85 per cent of the public want us to ditch fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy – this will bring down bills in the long term and create new UK industries and jobs.”

The investment in onsite renewable energy technologies is part of Sainsbury’s ambitious corporate target to reduce its operational carbon emissions by 30% absolute and 65% relative by 2020 compared with 2005. This is part of a broader target of an absolute carbon reduction of 50% by 2030.

This broader target is one of 20 goals published in Sainsbury’s 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan, which acts as a cornerstone to Sainsbury’s business strategy and sets out 20 sustainability goals to be achieved by 2020.

As well as solar panels Sainsbury’s has installed over 40 biomass boilers and has recently announced the roll out of an innovative geo-thermal heat pump technology at up to 100 stores, tapping renewable energy from deep underground to provide heating and hot water. It follows Sainsbury’s successful world-first use of geo-thermal technology at its Crayford store, enabling it to supply 30 per cent of its energy from on-site renewable sources.

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