In other news…

Nice Q&A with Art Aylesworth, CEO of Victoria, B.C.-based Carmanah Technologies, in Red Herring. Aylesworth talks about the company’s decision to start selling “solar engines” — a combination of solar panels, batteries and electronics — that can power telecom towers and other equipment in remote locations. I’ve talked to Aylesworth about this and posted about it before. It’s all part of Carmanah’s new five-year business plan. The Q&A in Red Herring is just another take on it. Worth a read.

Also, the Deal.com (via News.com) has a piece about using algae to produce biodiesel. Meanwhile, Technology Review has an article about India’s plans for developing biodiesel. Oh, and actor/environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. has a new show on HGTV called “Living With Ed.” It’s basically a reality TV show with a green twist, with Begley and his wife living out a lifestyle that has been designed around energy efficiency, conservation, waste reduction and renewables. Hopefully it will inspire others to consider a similar lifestyle, though you’ve got to wonder whether he’ll be preaching to the converted.

Wal-Mart going solar, in a potentially big way

Check out this entry by Joel Makower at his Two Steps Forward blog. According to Makower, Wal-Mart has issued a request for proposals to install solar PV systems on its stores in five U.S. states, with bids due on Jan. 5 and the winner expected to be notified Feb. 28.

He calls it “the largest procurement of solar ever proposed” and says it’s part of the retail giant’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over the next eight years. Wal-Mart is considering one of three options: 1) a direct purchase of the systems; 2) a SunEdison-type arrangement whereby a third party installs, owns and operates the systems and sells the clean electricity to Wal-Mart under long-term contracts; and 3) a leasing arrangement with option to purchase systems.

According to Makower:

Wal-Mart doesn’t mention a specific purchase size, but my sources tell me that the company could put solar on as many as 340 stores in the next few years. Assuming that each store utilized about 300 kilowatts of solar panels (it could be as much as 500 kilowatts), we’re talking roughly 100 megawatts of solar. To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California — the largest single corporate solar installation in history — is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size.

No doubt, this would be an impressive and, as Makower calls it, historic initiative if Wal-Mart follows through on even a fraction of these plans. The results of the RFP itself will be telling. And remember, this follows on previous commitments to being green and clean, including the purchase of wind power, the testing of hydrogen fuel-cell powered forklifts, and using more than 100 hybrid-electric vehicles in its corporate car fleet (as well as exploring the use of hybrid technology for its truck fleet).