Houston's IKEA received a surprise early shipment of solar panels this week, as the famed Swedish furniture company continues to expand its eco-friendly programming throughout the United States.
With a roof area of approximately four acres in the heart of the Sun Belt, the massive IKEA building at I-10 and Antoine is a near-perfect match for solar power. Local managers have known of the plans for several months, although no specific dates were given by corporate officials.
Pending local permitting, installation is planned for the coming winter, with completion expected in early spring.
“The solar initiative is not about a tax break,” said Kim Castillo, IKEA Houston’s marketing manager. “It’s about giving back to the environment, something in which the company strongly believes.”
In early 2011, the IKEA lead the march among major retailers to eliminate inefficient light bulbs from its product line as well as its stores and warehouses — a move done long in advance of federal energy mandates that will phase out most incandescent bulbs starting in January 2012.
“Sustainability is such a part of IKEA’s culture,” said Yvonne Rodriguez, the Houston store’s full-time sustainability manager. “That’s not only in the company, but in the surrounding community as well.”
“The solar initiative is not about a tax break,” Castillo said. “It’s about giving back to the environment, something in which the company strongly believes.”
Each year, Rodriguez works with a variety of local non-profits for the store’s environmental outreach programming.
“In October, we hosted a tree sale on behalf of Trees for Houston,” she explained, noting a longstanding IKEA employee volunteer program with the green organization. “We sold native varieties at affordable prices, collecting money for the group’s education efforts.”
The store also provides premier parking for hybrid vehicles and car-pooling staff members; a public recycling program that includes light bulbs; and a reuse program that offers customers a free meal at the IKEA restaurant for donating newspaper to help package delicate items.
Opened in 1992 and replaced with a larger store in 2004, IKEA Houston will cover roughly two thirds of its roof space with nearly 4,000 individual solar panels. California-based REC Solar has been selected to install the photovoltaic units.
A recent statement from the company notes that the installation will generate 1,317,500 kilowatt hours a year — equal to the reduction of 1,001 tons of CO2, emissions from 178 cars, or the electricity from 113 homes, according to the Environmental Protect Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Calculator.