Huge IKEA Warehouse To Get Rooftop Solar

Every six months or so, my family heads south from Fresno on Interstate 5. We summit the Grapevine and drop down into the massiveness that is Southern California as we make our way to my sister-in-law's home in Fontana.

Each trip takes us past the 1.8 million-square-foot IKEA warehouse at the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley. That's usually where, if it's summer, I turn off the air conditioner to avoid overheating as we slog up the hill.

It gets hot in the Valley, and the sun bears down relentlessly in the summer. IKEA plans to harness some of that sun power by installing rooftop solar on that huge warehouse - and seven stores in California.

When finished, the 7,980 panels on the Tejon distribution center will generate 2.8 million kilowatt hours annually, enough to power 251 houses. It also is equivalent to eliminating 2,278 tons of carbon dioxide or removing 395 cars from the road, IKEA said in this press release.

The retailer also plans to install solar energy systems at stores in Burbank, Costa Mesa, Covina, East Palo Alto, Emeryville, West Sacramento and San Diego.

Collectively, the eight buildings comprise nearly 90% of the IKEA presence in California, and will total 4.5 megawatts of solar-generating capacity, nearly 20,000 panels, and an annual output of 6.65 million kilowatt hours of electricity. That equates to reducing 5,268 tons of carbon dioxide in California – equaling the emissions of 914 cars or providing 580 homes electricity yearly.

Rooftop solar is a key part of the green-jobs initiative of incoming governor Jerry Brown, but it also makes sense in other ways. Warehouses cover vast amounts of the Inland Empire portion of Southern California - and more of those rooftops are doing double duty as solar generators.

The San Joaquin Valley has some rooftop systems, but the opportunity exists for much more. Fresno and Tulare counties, because they are in the middle of the state, are a magnet for companies looking to site a central distribution center.

Gap Inc. installed a solar-energy system on its warehouse in Fresno in 2008, but there are many other large distribution centers that could follow its lead and help make the Valley a leader in rooftop solar.

Photo of IKEA warehouse by