Toys 'R' Us building massive rooftop solar project

Retailer's distribution center in New Jersey is set to host possibly the largest rooftop solar project in North America.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
Constellation Energy workers installing the solar system on the roof of the Toys "R" Us distribution facility in Flanders, N.J. Constellation Energy

Toys "R" Us announced today that it plans to cover 70 percent of the roof of its distribution center, located in the leafy suburb of Flanders, N.J., with a solar installation.

The 5.38-megawatt solar project is a massive undertaking for a rooftop installation. Toys "R" Us claims this will be the largest rooftop solar installation in North America.

The Flanders distribution center is the largest distribution facility in the U.S. for the toy and electronics retailer. Toys "R" Us estimates that the roof spans about 32 acres. More than 869,294 square feet (almost 20 acres) of that roof will be covered in solar panels, according to the company.

The massive Toys 'R' Us distribution center with a 32-acre roof is located in the middle of a forest in Flanders, N.J. Google Maps

Toys "R" Us has signed a power purchase agreement with Constellation Energy, which is overseeing the design and installation of the solar farm and will maintain and operate the facility once its complete. The installation, when complete, is expected to provide 72 percent of all electrical needs for its facility.

Construction of the rooftop solar farm, which will consist of 37,000 Uni-Solar lightweight photovoltaic panels made by United Solar, is scheduled to be complete by the end of the summer, according to Toys "R" Us.

Unlike many other companies that tend to dwell on the optimal outcome of a solar project, Toys "R" Us seems to acknowledge that solar electricity production is somewhat variable.

"Depending on weather conditions, the system is expected to produce approximately 6,362,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year," the company said in a statement.

That realistic attitude could stem from the toy company's experience in other solar rooftop projects. It's North Brunswick, N.J., Babies "R" Us store has a solar installation providing 67 percent of its electricity needs. The company has also been working on a solar project for its Secaucus, N.J., superstore that will provide 33 percent of that facility's electricity needs when complete.

New Jersey itself, meanwhile, has unexpectedly become a leader in U.S. solar. The state ranked second in the U.S. for most solar photovoltaics installed in 2010 with 137.1 megawatts of direct current (MWdc) installed.