When you stand at the entrance of our Vista, California, store, it looks like any other Target store.
But underneath that iconic Target exterior is a complex system of electrical, plumbing, solar and more that makes it one of a kind — and our most sustainable store yet. On its own, the store will generate more renewable energy than needed each year to power its operations. It’s Target’s first net zero energy store, and a powerful example of our Target Forward strategy in action as we work toward our commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. It serves as a testing site for sustainability-minded innovations, providing learnings that will help inform future store designs.
How’d we get here? Let’s go behind the scenes with the team that brought it all to life.
A dream come true
In Tim Haag’s 24 years at Target as an electrical designer, he’s spent the last five of them dreaming about one thing: carports.
“For years, I’ve been thinking: I can’t wait to build a canopy with solar on top,” says Tim. “My work has focused on Target’s solar installations, and I could see the potential of carports as another energy source for us. And as an electrical engineer, building a solar carport canopy seemed like a fun challenge — I wanted to dig in and understand how they could work.”
Known as the “Solar King” by a few fellow team members, Tim has put his stamp of approval on nearly every solar installation at Target (now numbering in the 500s). So, when his colleague Rachel Swanson was first tasked with coming up with a site and concept for Target’s first net zero energy store — and with a vision for a solar carport at the top of her list — Tim was already on speed dial.
“When it comes to solar, Tim is truly the technical expert behind the scenes to make sure we can pull it off,” says Rachel, lead solar program manager, Target. “And at first, this started as a pure solar project — we knew we needed all of that energy to get to net zero energy. Over time, as the idea got some traction, other teams and experts started jumping in, saying, ‘What if we could do this?’”
“You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Alongside its new carports, the store includes features like an electric HVAC system and CO2 refrigeration — a natural refrigerant — that helps reduce the store’s emissions. And the team did it all while navigating major challenges from COVID-19 (they had to select and design the site remotely) to solving for a lack of electrical connection points at the solar carport site — which required boring under the store in order to connect the canopies to the electrical system at the back.
“Rachel and I didn’t sleep much that night,” recalls Tim. “But when it came through successfully, it was huge. You don’t know what you don’t know, and we had no idea what we’d be confronting when we started this project. It was so exciting to see it come together from something we really created from scratch.”
“This store is truly a test kitchen for some of the features that can help us as we work toward our larger goal of 100% renewable electricity,” says Rachel. “Designing this project was intimidating at first, especially when you consider the moving target of energy consumption and all the stakeholders needed to pull it off. I’m so proud to see it come to life, and looking ahead, I’m excited to use what we learned here to help us achieve our goals and make a positive impact.”
Take a closer look at the journey
This store? It’s just one way we’re testing and learning as we live out our Target Forward vision to co-create an equitable and regenerative future together with our guests, partners and communities. And we’re already putting our insights into action: Based on our learnings from our Vista store, we’re taking CO2 refrigeration chain-wide by 2040. This effort builds on the ways we’re already running our facilities to be more sustainable — including installing LED lights across our stores, adding EV charging stations to more than 150 locations and building recycling and composting programs that led us to already divert more than 80% of our operational waste from landfill. Check out our Sustainability & ESG work for a deeper look.
Statements in this article regarding Target’s future investments in new stores and remodel programs, expected results of its renewable energy and emission reduction activities and expectations regarding its sustainability strategy and commitments are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Please see our SEC filings for risks and uncertainties that could cause Target’s actions to differ materially from what was expected on the date of this article. Target does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement.