Ultra modern-style Swedish retailer Ikea will modernize much of its own power use by expanding an already large project to install solar panels atop its stores in the Southeast.
The project will place panels on nearly two dozen stores across the United States; in Tampa, that means Ikea will cover nearly its entire store roof — a space the size of several football fields.
That will require 5,061 solar panels. When operational, they could generate 1,792,300 kilowatts of electricity per year. In theory, that equates to the power use of 154 residential homes and the carbon output of 242 cars, Ikea estimates.
Ikea normally operates massive stores with home goods, furniture, whole kitchens, art, decorative items and sit-down restaurants. The Tampa store opened in 2009 in Ybor City sprawls over 353,000 square feet on more than 29 acres.
Such large solar projects are gaining momentum in the United States, despite some high-profile setbacks at individual panel manufacturers. Recently, the U.S. military started a project to install panels on thousands of homes on military bases.
Ikea already has 12 solar stations in the United States, with 11 more under way. This new round adds 10 more stores to the project, bringing the company's solar generation to 26.8 megawatts. By way of comparison, the Tampa Electric power plant at Big Bend generates about 1,700 megawatts and supplies much of the power for the Tampa Bay area.
"Ikea believes we can be a good business while doing good business," Mike Ward, Ikea's U.S. president, said in a statement. "This investment extends our solar presence to the Southern U.S., further reducing our carbon footprint and the intensity of the electrical grid."
The panels in Tampa will be installed by the U.S. subsidiary of REC Solar, a Norwegian-based solar engineering firm.
Partly because of the size of the Tampa store, it's unlikely the panels would generate enough power to become a net producer of electricity, said Ikea spokesman Joe Roth, though they would make a "significant dent" in Ikea's power bill.
Roth declined to say how much the project would cost.
With the right permitting and government approvals, installation could start this winter, with the panels put into use during the summer of 2012, Roth said.