FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Faculty, students, and alumnus from the University of Arkansas spoke to Sam’s Club employees about renewable energy at their headquarters in Bentonville.

Those who spoke include law professor Sara Gosman, two law students, and a recent graduate of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Electric vehicles were part of the discussion at the recent company-wide “regeneration” learning event.

Gosman, who teaches energy and environmental law, provided an overview of renewable energy. According to a release, she explained the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy sources, the former being those that can be naturally replenished, that is, used and then released to the environment to be used again.

These include wind, solar, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal energy. Non-renewable energy sources, such as coal, natural gas, and oil, cannot be reused, the release says.

Rapid technological advances over the past 20 years and greater consciousness about human impact on the environment have accelerated the development of renewable energy and expanded business opportunities, Gosman said.

Renewable energy sources, primarily wind power, now constitute 20% of all electricity generation, and renewable energy is said to be on track to be the largest source of energy by 2035. Solar is expected to be the source of half of the energy supply by 2050, the U of A says.

Third-year law students Houston Downes and Hunter Simmons discussed the economic, sustainability, community, and ethics issues surrounding electric vehicles and battery charging during the event.

Downes, who wrote a law review comment on lithium-ion batteries with Gosman as an adviser, focused on the technology and resources needed for electric vehicles. Though clearly the future of transportation – Downes described this moment in the transition from gasoline to electric transportation as the “edge of seismic change” noting electric vehicles present their own problems, specifically energy storage via lithium-ion batteries and the need for a stable supply chain over the life cycle of batteries, including greater emphasis on recycling and responsible mining of minerals.

Simmons, a student in Gosman’s energy law class, discussed cultural changes because of this transition. To support the demand for electric vehicles, he said, communities will need to offer more hubs where people can work or interact while charging their vehicles, similar to public spaces and some businesses that offer free Wi-Fi. 

Reed Ostner, a new member of the replenishment team at Sam’s Club and a recent graduate of Walton College, talked about his passion for sustainability and how it influenced his decision to seek employment at Sam’s.

According to the release, the event was held to educate and draw attention to Walmart’s commitment to becoming a regenerative company. The world’s largest retailer says it is seeking to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2040 and to rely solely on renewable energy for its global operations by 2035. Along with the Walmart Foundation, Walmart reportedly also has a goal of protecting, managing or restoring at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030.