There are nearly 150,000 solar panels on the 260-acre site.
Starbucks has invested in a 260-acre solar farm in North Carolina that will supply enough energy to power 600 stores in a handful of eastern states.
The North Carolina facility, which features almost 150,000 solar panels, will be operational by mid-May. It marks a turning point in the coffee chain’s renewable energy strategy, as it moves away from energy-offset purchases in favour of actively involving itself with the clean energy boom.
The site will be used to provide electricity for stores in North Carolina, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington DC.
“The corporate sector is driving the conversation [around clean energy] at the moment,” said Patrick Leonard, who sources renewable energy for Starbucks stores in the US and Canada.. “We’re happy to partner with utilities to do this but we now also have options to engage with projects directly. For a company like Starbucks and some of the tech companies that use a lot of energy, to be able to source their needs in a positive way is a win-win. It’s also a way we can demonstrate our values.
“The investment in North Carolina has been a pilot for us. We have to test and learn. Then the goal is to take what we’ve learned and do more.”
The new facility forms part of a wider push towards sources of electricity that are less detrimental to the planet.
Starbucks has invested in renewable energy since 2005, steadily increasing its investments in Renewable Energy Certificates. In 2015, it achieved the goal of having 100% of the electricity powering company-operated stores worldwide obtained from renewable sources.
In Washington state, the company is expanding its renewable efforts with wind power through a long-term contract with the local utility Puget Sound Energy (PSE). PSE’s Green Direct effort, an leading renewable energy programme for the area’s largest electricity consumers, will directly provide energy to power 116 Starbucks stores and the company’s roasting facility in Kent, Washington.
“Green Direct is a way Starbucks can select what type of energy we buy, rather than that being predetermined by the utility, so we can put the money we spend on electricity into renewable energy projects,” Leonard continued.
As Starbucks global director of environment Rebecca Zimmer explained, this involves supplying clean and green energy back into the grid to supply homes and businesses. “This represents a direct investment that’s locally relevant and provides an innovative energy purchasing model we hope to see in other communities,” she said.
Daniel T Schwartz, director of the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, said a commitment to renewable energy by major companies like Starbucks will ultimately impact the cost of clean electricity across the board.
“Everyone responsible for building a clean energy system – from the people that permit the project to the engineers and construction labour that builds it – learn from each project, so the more renewable energy generation facilities that get built in the US, the cheaper they get for everyone else to buy and use.
“Starbucks’ commitment to being on the cutting edge of clean-energy-direct purchasing is lowering the cost for every subsequent clean energy project.”
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