TODAY’S STUDY: SOLAR MEANS BUSINESS 2015; TOP U.S. COMMERCIAL SOLAR USERS
Solar Means Business 2015; Top U.S. Commercial Solar Users
December 2015 (Solar Energy Industries Association)
More of America’s businesses are choosing to install solar than ever before. Walmart once again took the top spot among America’s businesses in the electric generation capacity of its solar investments and number of solar projects. The big box retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., boasts a robust 142 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity and has completed 348 installations.
Many more of the country’s most recognizable and best-run companies continue to expand their use of solar energy. IKEA and Costco are powering stores with solar. FedEx distribution centers are powered by solar. Apple and Verizon data centers are powered by solar. The headquarters and offices of Mortenson Construction, L’Oreal, the Better Business Bureau and Forever 21 also rely on solar. Auto manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen use solar energy, and so do manufacturers such as Owens Corning, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson. Across industries, America’s business leaders are choosing solar to cut costs, help their bottom line and plan for the future. While this report highlights the ever-expanding list of companies choosing to go solar, it also calls attention to the many ways in which America’s companies are choosing to use solar to meet their business goals.
While solar has long been viewed as an environmentally responsible energy choice, businesses now deploy solar because it is a smart fiscal choice as well. In doing so, these companies have proven the viability of solar technology, showing that it is ready now to provide low-cost power generation on an increasingly large scale. With the right policies in place, solar will continue to play a crucial role in moving America’s economy forward.
From manufacturers to retailers, to tech companies, real estate agencies and financiers, more U.S. businesses are reducing costs by taking advantage of the sharp decline in the cost of solar. Growth in corporate solar adoption has not been limited to traditional solar markets in California, Arizona and New Jersey- this year’s report finds installations in states like Arkansas, Kansas and Indiana. It is increasingly apparent that solar is a smart business decision wherever your business may be.
The growth in solar adoption by America’s business community represents just one piece of the broad-based growth in solar installations we’ve seen in the United States over the last decade. Spurred by investments in solar made at the residential, commercial and utility-scale level, installed solar capacity in the U.S is 30 times greater today than it was in 2006. By the end of 2015, there will be enough solar electricity generated in the U.S. to power more than 5.5 million homes.
This fourth edition of Solar Means Business surveyed some of America’s largest companies as well as a number of additional businesses with known solar portfolios. The increased solar adoption by major corporations shown in this report reflects the overall growth within the broader commercial sector, but more importantly shows that companies that previously installed solar are continuing to add more of it. Companies sampled here installed 1,686 systems totaling 907 MW, generating enough electricity to power more than 158,000 homes. This represents a 59% increase over the findings of last year’s report. While this dataset cannot be considered a comprehensive look, it does provide insight into the diversity of companies that are choosing to go solar.
Commercial Solar is Nationwide
In 2015, Solar Means Business tracked projects in 3 new states, expanding to Arkansas, Kansas and Indiana. In total, the data in this report represents solar powered businesses in 37 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. IKEA is the company with the most geographically expansive solar fleet, with solar powered stores in 22 different states, but companies like Kohl’s, Whole Foods, General Motors, Target and 14 other leading companies have solar at their facilities in 5 or more states.
The Top 25 Companies by Solar Capacity
Many of America’s largest companies have led the way in solar deployment and have done so at an amazing rate. The list below ranks businesses by their total on-site installed solar capacity, or the maximum power potential measured in megawatts.
The Top 25 Companies by Number of Installations
The list below ranks businesses by the number of on-site solar PV installations. The Top 25 companies have installed more than 1,462 individual systems, a clear sign that solar meets a range of energy needs for a variety of different companies throughout the US…
Variations of Commercial Systems by Array Type: Roof Mount, Ground Mount, Carports…Variations of Commercial Systems by Facility Type: Office, Buildings and Corporate Campuses, Retail, Manufacturing, Data Centers, Distribution Centers & Warehouses, Convention Centers…
Data centers are some of the most power hungry facilities and companies such as Verizon, Apple and Amazon have chosen solar energy to meet those needs. Apple is a pioneer in this area with its pair of large 20 MW plants near their data centers in North Carolina and another 20 MW that recently came online in Nevada. The tech giant also recently announced a partnership to power its state of the art headquarters in Cupertino with 130 MW of solar. Amazon, similarly, has announced plans for an 80 MW plant in Maryland. In contrast to these extremely large projects, Verizon’s needs are more dispersed as it has installed more than 7.9 MW at its data centers and mobile switching centers in New Jersey, Maryland, California, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
Distribution Centers and Warehouses:
Similar to manufacturing facilities, these facilities often take advantage of the vast and unutilized roof space that results in comparatively large system sizes. Projects covered in this category range from less than 100 kW to more than 8.6 MW, with an overall average system size of 1.5 MW. In total, this dataset tracks 131 projects at distribution centers with more than 196 MW of solar PV capacity. Since last year’s report, Walmart, Target, FedEx, Walgreen’s, Prologis, Hartz Mountain and Gap have installed a total of 18 projects with a combined 19.5 MW of capacity. Companies that have already gone solar continue to do so, but overall this space is still underserved relative to its market potential.
In previous versions of this report, solar assets on properties owned and maintained by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) or other real estate firms where the building occupants did not directly consume the electricity from the PV systems were excluded from this report. In this year’s edition, we included systems located on buildings even when those systems supplied wholesale power to the local utility and its customers in light of the fact that these companies are putting their existing buildings to use as solar power plants.