Sainsbury’s has become the largest operator of rooftop-mounted solar PV across the UK after installing 16MW of capacity on 169 of its stores.  

The 69,500 solar modules installed across the supermarket giant’s stores will reduce Sainsbury’s carbon footprint by 6,800 tonnes of CO2 every year as well as significantly slashing the company’s utility bills.

The mass rollout of solar serves as part of Sainsbury’s ambitious corporate target that aims to reduce its operational carbon emissions by 30 percent absolute and 65 percent relative by 2020. The company also holds a wider ambition to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2030.

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.

“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.”

The supermarket giant is truly embracing the use of renewables, in addition to the solar rollout, Sainsbury’s has installed over 40 biomass boilers as well as committed to installing geo-thermal heat pumps at 100 of its stores nationwide. Welcoming the news, Friends of the Earth Director of Policy and Campaigns, Craig Bennett, 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.”

In the run up to the controversial August cuts, deployment of commercial scale solar has been disappointing. However, Justin King’s public backing of  large scale solar as good for the environment and business should help instil some confidence to the UK solar market, which has had to endure significant changes to the feed-in tariff scheme in recent days. This year’s upcoming Solar Power UK conference will be addressing how companies can utilise solar to help cut costs today whilst ensuring a saving on fixed costs in the future. The Birmingham-based event will be running a wide range of seminar topics from October 2-4. The full seminar programme can be viewed here.