The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is out with its Solar Means Business 2017 report, which finds that “America’s top companies are investing in solar in record amounts.” That shouldn’t be surprising for those of us who follow the solar industry, but still, it’s good to see it confirmed by SEIA.
The SEIA report provides detail on corporate adoption of solar power in the U.S. The report finds that the top three companies – Target, Walmart and Prologis – held on to their 2016 top-three ranking, and that they added significant solar power capacity. Overall, SEIA finds that 2017 was the “3rd -largest year for installations by America’s top companies, with 325 MW installed,” mostly fueled by continued cost declines in solar power and “changes to incentive programs in key states.”
In addition to Target, Walmart and Prologis, other U.S. companies leading the way on solar power capacity include: Apple (101 megawatts – MW), Kohls (52 MW), Costco Wholesale (51 MW), GGP Inc. (45 MW), IKEA (39 MW), Macy’s (39 MW), Amazon (34 MW) and many more.
What’s driving this solar procurement by U.S. corporations? SEIA asked Target, which said that it’s a combination of a “strong financial case” plus “a key piece of our climate strategy.” For Campbell’s Soup, it’s “part of its climate protection efforts, while also driving cost savings for the company.” And for Microsoft, it’s a way to “sustainably address [its growing power] needs” as it “build[s] a global cloud to better serve our customers.”
The SEIA report gives granular detail on how corporations are going about their solar surge. Most corporate solar power systems are in the retail sector, with other significant users including office buildings distribution and data centers. The majority of corporate solar power systems are rooftop (around 70% of capacity), followed by ground mount and carport. It’s important to note that corporations are increasingly procuring solar power off-site, which “allow[s] companies to tap into economies of scale by siting projects in areas where larger system sizes are possible.” As this USA Today article reports, in March 2018, “Microsoft announced it is contracting to buy electricity from a giant solar array in Virginia in what will be the largest ever corporate purchase of solar energy in the United States and will double the state's solar capacity.” Also in Virginia, Amazon and Dominion Energy are partnering on “massive…solar farms,” enough to “generate the equivalent of enough electricity to power 65,000 homes and businesses.”
The bottom line is that U.S. businesses are seeing solar power as a smart investment opportunity for a variety of reasons, and are moving ahead rapidly to take advantage. The “Solar Means Business 2017” report is just one more milestone along the path towards an economy fully powered by clean energy.