The US has more than 450,000 warehouses and distribution centers – that’s 16.4 billion square feet of rooftop space ripe for hosting solar panels.

Rooftop solar on US warehouses

Environment America and Frontier Group crunched some numbers and shared what they discovered in a study called “Solar on Warehouses.”

They report that the rooftops of US warehouses built before 2019 alone have the potential to generate 185.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar electricity annually – enough to power 19.4 million average households. That’s equivalent to roughly the entire New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area.

Additionally, there was more than 626 million square feet of warehouse space under construction in the first half of 2022, thanks to online shopping growth in response to the pandemic.

The study notes:

On average across the country, warehouses could produce 176% of their annual electricity use by fully building out their rooftop solar potential, allowing them to produce more electricity than they use and provide electricity to their communities.

And if all US warehouses and distribution centers adopted solar, then the equivalent of more than 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually would be reduced. That’s like taking 24 million gas cars off the road for a year, or taking 30 coal-fired power plants offline.

So, how would this idea get implemented? Environment America and Frontier Group call for businesses to commit to installing solar on their facilities, and they also call for government at all levels to support rooftop solar on warehouses by reducing permitting time and cutting red tape around permitting and interconnection.

They also state that businesses should be compensated for hosting solar – as it not only benefits the businesses but also the public – with programs such as net metering, feed-in-tariffs, and value-of-solar tariffs.

Alex Keally, senior vice president for Massachusetts-based Solect Energy, which has completed numerous solar installations on warehouse rooftops, said:

The key to realizing the solar potential of warehouse rooftops is for warehouse owners to connect with solar developers and for utility companies to quickly connect rooftop solar systems to the grid.

Electrek’s Take

Big, boxy rooftops are some of the best places to put solar panels, so I was happy to see a new study surface that promotes this idea.

Warehouses and distribution centers have large, flat, open roofs that usually get direct sunlight. These solar panel arrays are not going to take up land or upset neighborhood residents – they’d be on commercial buildings, and let’s be honest – they’re almost always an eyesore anyway. It’s unused space that’s ripe for clean energy, and I’ve never heard anyone object to this idea (although if you do, please politely tell me why in the comments below).

While we’re at it, let’s whack rooftop solar on top of all the box stores and car dealerships, too. IKEA, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are at it. The federal tax incentives are there. Solar is a more cost effective way for businesses to power themselves instead of using fossil-fueled power.

Read more: This Chevy dealership’s rooftop solar could power 750 homes

Photo: Solect

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