UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has claimed the title of the largest rooftop PV operator in the UK with a total output of 16MW.

As part of its solar efforts, the supermarket behemoth has installed a total of 69,500 PV solar panels on the rooftop of 169 of its UK stores, helping the company to cut its CO2 emissions by an estimated 6,800 tonnes per year. It will also help the company to reduce its energy consumption and, in turn, lower its utility bills.

The investment is part of the company’s target to reduce its operational carbon emissions by 30% absolute and 65% relative by 2020 compared with 2005. It is also part of Sainsbury’s larger corporate 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan in which it lists 20 ambitious sustainable goals to achieve by 2020. In addition, the company has outlined a broader target to slash its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.

Commenting on Sainsbury’s solar achievements, the CEO of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, said, “We’ve already made real progress towards achieving our environmental commitments detailed in our stretching 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan. This solar rollout is another big step forward. It makes sense for us — it’s good for the environment and for our business and we are actively looking to install more panels.

“We already produce far more solar power than most commercial solar farms. We believe the retail sector should take another look at solar energy as a viable way to reduce its impact on the environment. Supermarkets have the equivalent of football fields on their roofs, many of them underutilized.  It’s a perfect time to turn that space into something positive.

“Big contracts like this support job creation in the renewable energy sector and are essential for our solar industry to thrive. We believe that we’ll see the cost of solar energy reaching parity with the grid on commercial installations like this in the next two and four years, and that may well herald a new boom in the solar industry.”

Around the globe, Sainsbury’s is just one of a number of retailers investing heavily in solar energy, particularly in rooftop PV systems. In the US, there has been a flurry of solar activities with the likes of Swedish furniture retailer IKEA recently announcing completion of its 30th solar project and Walmart reaching its 100th solar installation milestone in California.