Walmart's Liberty Township Store Goes Solar
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – From the parking lot, the Walmart in Liberty Township looks identical to just about any other store the giant retailer has constructed over the last decade. But from the roof, the more than 2,000 solar panels being installed there makes this particular store part of a select number of Walmarts across the country that have gone green.
"I don't believe there's a solar array in this Valley that is this large," said David Dickey, president of Joe Dickey Electric, North Lima.
Joe Dickey Electric was selected as the electrical contractor to install the solar panels, an alternative energy option that he said Ohio should embrace.
"We have as much sunlight as Washington and Oregon." Dickey said. "That's where everybody is using solar panels."
Walmart first started installing solar panels at its stores in 2008 in California. Today, more than 150 of its 4,522 stores across the county are powered to some extent by solar energy.
Walmart uses more solar energy today than any other company in the United States, with a capacity to generate 65,000 kilowatts of solar power across their stores, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
That's because they can, says Dickey. The Liberty Township store has a 100,000-square-foot roof that is able to accommodate the more than 2,000 panels that are able to produce 450,000 watts of power.
On Monday, workers were busy installing the remaining panels on the giant flat roof, while others below were readying the conversion stations, which will feed power back into the store's grid.
About 16 workers were used for this project, Dickey said, and the entire job should take about 4 ½ weeks, with just more than a week's work still left to complete the installation.
The solar panels capture the sunlight and convert it into direct current, or DC, power, Dickey explains. All of the panels are tied together at junction boxes, and then the photovoltaic wire is fed into 10 runs of conduit along the roof and over the side to the back of the store.
There, the conduit is connected with an inverter, which converts the DC power into alternating current, or AC power. That energy is then fed back into the store for usage.
"It'll cover about 60% of their load," said project manager Justin Lewis. "On average, it's going to cover about 30%," when you factor the shorter days and less available sunlight during the winter months.
The panels are strategically placed on the roof, with the face of the panels tilted toward the south to achieve the maximum amount of sunlight during the day. Each panel has the capacity to produce 235 watts of energy.
The peak sunlight hours are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., added Steve Fife, project foreman. "Right now, they're still producing electricity. But you want those peak sunlight hours," he said. Even on overcast days, these panels are able to convert solar power into energy, he noted.
Each panel is fixed and mounted on brackets installed by union electrical workers represented by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 64 and 573.
What is important is that when Walmart opted to install the solar project, Dickey Electric's workforce was already well versed and trained in the discipline, Dickey said.
"When the opportunity came, we had a reliable workforce that can do this work," Dickey said.
Much of that training came as a result of an Ohio GROWs grant worth more than $1 million, Fife said. Fife was one of the trainers for the program.
"The training is both classroom and hands-on," Fife said. Solar displays are available for worker training at the Electrical Trades Institute in Champion, near Kent State University Trumbull Campus, operated by the IBEW and the National Electrical Contractors Association. "It's 48 hours of classroom and hands-on training. We put the majority of our members through it," he said.
Copyright 2012 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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