by Nicholas Brown
IKEA, the world's largest furniture retailer from Sweden, has set a goal to derive all of its energy from renewable sources, and it is now installing 39,000 solar panels on the rooftops of its stores in the United Kingdom to help achieve that goal.
It also purchased a 12.3-MW (12,300-kW) wind farm in Huntly (in northeast Scotland) from Good Energies Capital Inc, according to the chief sustainability officer, Steve Howard. He said that is enough to cover 30 percent of IKEA's UK electricity consumption.
The 12.3-MW farm is only one of the wind farms owned by IKEA, which also has wind farms in Denmark, Germany, France, and elsewhere in the UK. Howard said that the benefit of generating a significant percentage of its own energy from solar and wind sources is that it helps to protect the company from energy price spikes that cost IKEA a whopping 1.2 billion euros ($1.7 billion USD) per year.
Solar and wind powered generators do not require fuel (beyond wind and sunshine), so the cost to generate electricity from these generators does not spike at all.
IKEA essentially paid for its electricity in advance by purchasing solar panels so the cost to it is the same for decades (and also keep in mind that the cost of electricity from fossil fueled sources is continually increasing). Wind farms do require routine maintenance, but most of the cost of wind power is the initial cost of the turbines.
Howard said that the solar panels will cost approximately 4 billion euros or $6.5 billion USD to fit and they are manufactured by GS Solar Fujian Co. of China.
IKEA currently owns 67 wind turbines with an electricity generation capacity of 127 MW.
"The wind turbines in the UK are a first step, and we'll expand on that," he said. "This is a message to developers out there that we're looking for good projects in the right places, and we're keen to diversify in terms of the regions."
"The direction of travel for us is 100 percent renewable. We're likely to hit 70 to 80 percent by 2015. We've built up sufficient experience in the area to be more confident in the timeline, so we will set a timeline in the next few months."
A deadline has not been set, but IKEA appears to be fast-approaching its goal and is a clear world leader.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica