IKEA — though not exactly a friend to forests, and way too fond of dubious meatballs for our taste — still wins greenie points for having a Scandinavian way with alternative energy. Ninety percent of its massive warehouse stores will soon host rooftop solar panels, including sunny south Florida’s largest solar array, and Brits will be able to buy solar panels in U.K. stores starting this summer. On Thursday, the company one-upped its own clean cred by announcing its investment in a giant wind farm in Illinois.
Hoopeston Wind is the most recent in a series of wind investments by IKEA, including several farms in Canada, where the furniture behemoth is the largest retail wind investor. The Illinois farm will produce 98 megawatts of electricity when it comes online in 2015, or enough to power 34,000 Expedit-enhanced homes. That’s more than twice the electricity that all of IKEA’s U.S. operations consume, and about 18 percent of the company’s global consumption. All of those megawatts will be sold locally, and IKEA will count them toward its overall renewable energy goal: to be totally carbon-free by 2020.
When it comes to putting up wind power, IKEA is actually lagging. (Maybe they were struggling to read the instructions?) The American Wind Energy Association credits Walmart, of all companies, with kicking off the airy trend when it started buying a lot of energy from a Texas wind farm in 2008. Microsoft and Facebook both made flashy commitments to wind energy last year, while Google has been steadily ratcheting up its wind game for years.
This wind rush could be about, yes, corporate responsibility and a commitment to a more sustainable world. It’s also about the bottom line. Volatile fuel prices are driving smart companies to make long-term investments in more reliable power — and we’re OK with that, as long as they fix those wasteful bookcases, too.
Right now, IKEA’s new farm is saddled with the very Midwestern name Hoopeston Wind, but the company already stole our punchline about rebranding it:
“We haven’t figured out if it will say ‘IKEA’ on the blades,’’ [Rob Olson, chief financial officer of IKEA U.S.,] said. “Or maybe we’ll use the iconic names for our products on the wind turbines? We’re not sure.’’
WINDË coming soon to a utility near you.