Walmart has confirmed that the company is pursuing a solar energy project at the Lanoka Harbor location in addition to its plan to install wind turbines in the parking lot as part of its renewable energy initiative.
On Tuesday, Oct. 11, the Lacey Planning Board gave Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC the approval to install a ground level inverter with a cement pad in the back of Walmart that would be used to power solar panels on the roof.
The Lanoka Harbor Walmart and three others will be the first in the state to have solar panels installed, Walmart's Sustainability Communications Director Brooke Buchanan said. Nationwide, including Puerto Rico, there are 86 solar projects commissioned, 2 microwind, 24 fuel cells, and an additional 114 solar projects under construction, in design and/or permitting.
Greenskies reported that the solar project would account for 70 percent of Walmart’s energy. Buchanan said the solar projects generally produce 20 to 30 percent of Walmart's energy.
The system is 450 kWh and is comparable to powering 55 to 60 homes with electricity, Greenskies representative Mike Silvestrini said.
Buchanan could not say how many solar panels would be installed but said the available space on the roof would be maximized.
The site plans show the entire roof covered with solar panels, Mayor Gary Quinn said.
In September, Director of Sustainability Communications Kory Lundberg said Walmart had not sought to install solar panels on the rooftops of stores in New Jersey because of weather conditions. If there is a snowstorm, the accumulation creates a weight issue. Stores with solar panels are typically located in places like California, Arizona and Hawaii.
“The panels and installation method were specifically chosen to address the likelihood of snow loads; licensed structural engineers are involved on all of our solar projects,” Buchanan said.
Walmart is also in contract with OmniWind Energy Systems, whose application is currently before the township's zoning board. with new poles and foundations at the existing site of lighting poles at Walmart. The existing light fixtures would be reinstalled at the same height.
Each turbine will put out more than 4,000 kWh per year, which will make up less than 1 percent of Walmart’s energy, said Carl Douglas, president and co-founder of OmniWind. Power will not be put back into the grid.
“We have had positive feedback from our customers regarding our commitment to renewable energy,” Buchanan said when asked why Walmart would continue to pursue the wind turbine project.
Jack Nosti of Forked River has some reservations regarding the wind turbines and said solar should be enough.
“They could cover that whole roof with solar panels and get all the green energy that they need without interfering or disrupting our community in a densely populated area with wind turbines,” he said.
Regina Discenza of Forked River said she is irate over the issue.
“I sure as heck don’t want to see wind turbines up and down Route 9 and I’m telling you it looks like that Board of Adjustment is about to cave in,” she said. “It sounds like the construction to put them up is not worth what they’re going to give back in electricity. I’m all for green power but it has to be appropriate and this is not an appropriate place for it.”
OmniWind will next be in front of the zoning board on Monday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.