SunPower to install solar at 21 Walmart sites in Illinois

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SunPower wears a lot of hats. Not only is the company the nation’s leading high-efficiency PV maker, but it has been a developer of utility-scale and commercial and industrial (C&I) solar projects, while maintaining a strong presence in the residential sector through its installer network.

In recent years SunPower has pivoted away from large-scale solar, selling off its share in yieldco 8point3 Energy Partners and quitting utility-scale project development, while intensifying its focus on smaller-scale installations. And here SunPower is shining, with its network becoming the fourth-largest residential installer in the California market.

Yesterday SunPower announced another win in the C&I sector with a deal to install solar at 19 Walmart stores and two distribution centers in Illinois, a mix of ground-mounted and rooftop solar that will total 23 MW.

Walmart will purchase the electricity generated through a power purchase agreement arranged by SunPower, and will further own the renewable energy credits associated with the system. A joint press release describes the prices as “competitive”, but also notes that this provides a hedge against future utility rate increases.

The retail giant also touts the move as a step on its goal to meet 50% of its electricity demand with renewable energy by 2025. According to a recent report by Rocky Mountain Institute, Walmart was the third-largest buyer of renewable energy among large corporations.

Walmart and SunPower have also alluded to changes in Illinois renewable energy policy as a driver of the deal. Last summer the state reformed many aspects of its energy policy including its renewable energy credit system through the Future Energy Jobs Act, which solar advocates say is leading to a boom in Illinois.

These changes are coming to a relatively undeveloped market. As of the latest count by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Illinois had only 98 MW of solar online, and as such these installations will increase the state’s installed capacity by nearly a quarter.