When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family. The schedule at our house revolves around our two boys – Jake, 14, and Harrison, 10. In the last three years, as I’ve gotten more deeply involved in helping Walmart find ways to use renewable energy, I’ve been more aware of how what I do at work can help contribute to a better world for Jake and Harrison for years to come.
When it comes to renewables, unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet, no one single pathway that will get us where we want to be. Given that, we’re evaluating several paths forward.
One of those is fuel cells. Our energy team has been installing these in California since late 2009. Fuel cells, which look like a lot like stainless steel air conditioning units, convert biogas into power. Think of them like batteries, except that they run as long as they are fueled by biogas or natural gas. These fuel cells sit alongside or in back of our stores or clubs. So far, we have 26 fuel cell sites in California supplying energy to our facilities. All together, they could power 6,400 homes for a year.
For instant visibility to customers and associates, nothing comes close to our micro-wind projects. For these, we put a small wind turbine – 18 feet in diameter compared to the 200 feet of a typical turbine – on top of light poles in a store parking lot. We’ve done four test projects and so far the results are promising.
The results are in the early stages, though, and we’ll need to do more testing to determine if they’re a viable solution for more sites. And then there’s large-scale wind, too. We have a 90-megawatt wind farm out in west Texas, and it’s providing 15 percent of the power for 400 stores.
I particularly like solar power because it’s an accepted technology that municipalities are familiar with, and we have extensive under-utilized roof space. In January, we brought our 100th store online with solar energy.
It’s satisfying to know that what I’m doing is in some way helping Walmart become more energy independent. I have to say, though, that it’s just as satisfying to do something that my boys think is pretty cool. They’re learning about renewable energy at school and, of course, it’s in the media quite a bit, too. So they’re interested in the projects I’m working on.
Recently, my younger son, Harrison, pulled out his Lego blocks and went about creating an original structure. No aliens or planes or spaceships. He built a wind turbine. Needless to say, that put a smile on my face.