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Lansdowne Station Walmart using solar panels for electricity

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The Walmart store at Lansdowne Station is in select company when it comes to producing its own energy.

The store on Washington Boulevard near the Baltimore Beltway exit is one of only eight Walmarts and two Sam's Club stores in Maryland now using solar panels to provide power for heating, cooling and lighting.

More than 1,300 panels on the store's roof will provide the store with five to 20 percent of the store's total annual energy, the energy equivalent of that required to power 20 to 50 residential homes for a year.

The panels were installed by SolarCity over the course of 2012.

The system, which is largely hidden from the view of customers and passers by, went online in November of that year.

Walmart and SolarCity released an announcement regarding the installation last week, after work had been completed at the Walmart's Maryland stores in Berlin, California, Cockeysville, Fallston, Hagerstown, Laurel and Severn, as well as Lansdowne Station, along with Sam's Clubs in Salisbury and Severn

"We essentially had panels covering a significant portion of the rooftop of those stores (in Maryland)," said Lee Keshishian, regional vice president for the Mid-Atlantic region of SolarCity.

Katherine Jennrich, senior manager of energy at Walmart, said the installations come as part of a broader, nationwide look at increasing energy efficiency in Walmart stores.

She said, in 2005, former Walmart CEO Lee Scott challenged employees to meet three overarching sustainability goals, one of which was to use 100 percent renewable energy.

The company started exploring its solar energy options in 2007, she said, and since the first Walmart to have solar panels went online in 2008, more than 200 stores in 12 states, including the Arbutus location, have followed suit.

"I hear managers say all the time that they're proud to work for a company that is pursuing such aggressive energy saving goals," Jennrich said. "It gives them something really positive to talk about with the community.

"That first installation part can sometimes be an interruption and a headache for the managers, but all of them, hands down, have been very supportive of it," she said. "And (they like) the fact that it's a double whammy and saves money for the company too."

Not only does the new system provide the store with a source of sustainable, green energy, but, as part of a "power purchase agreement" with SolarCity, Walmart is getting a reduced rate for the electricity provided by the panels.

A power purchase agreement, Keshishian said, is "a financial vehicle that allows us to fill the system and then turn around and provide to the group that we installed the system for, they can buy the power that's produced from it."

The payment goes directly to SolarCity and the power is provided at a discounted cost from other major power utilities like Baltimore Gas and Electric or Pepco.

"They're pretty much saving money on day one," Keshishian said. "It's exciting stuff."

Jennrich said that, across the 200 stores using solar energy, the company has saved more than $2 million since the first one came online five years ago.

"In every case, we've been able to meet or beat that utility price that we've been paying," she said. "It's a great path to take."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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