When it comes to US business choosing to power their stores and factories with solar energy, the critical factor is money. Commercial solar prices have fallen by 58% since 2012 and by 16% year over year in 2016. In many cases, it’s just cheaper to install commercial solar power systems than continue to buy electricity from the local utility. Large US corporations now benefit from more than 1,000 megawatts of installed solar power. That’s up from 300 megawatts in 2012.
In its latest annual report entitled Solar Means Business, the Solar Energy Industries Association of America puts the spotlight on the 10 largest users of commercial solar energy. About half of them are retail store chains. Another quarter are distribution centers and data centers.
Target leads the way with 147 megawatts of installed solar from 300 installations. Walmart is right behind with 145 megawatts from 464 solar systems. Target is on pace to install another 70 megawatts of solar power in 2016 while Walmart has 21 megawatts of new solar power planned for this year. The full list of corporations in the top 10 is:
1. Target — 147 megawatts
2. Walmart — 145 megawatts
3. Prologis — 108 megawatts
4. Apple — 94 megawatts
5. Costco — 51 megawatts
6. Kohl’s — with 50 megawatts
7. IKEA — 44 megawatts
8. Macy’s — 39 megawatts
9. General Growth Properties — 30 megawatts
10. Hartz Mountain — 23 megawatts
10. Bed, Bath and Beyond — 23 megawatts
IKEA has installed solar systems at almost 90% of its 38 US locations, by far winning in relative terms. General Motors uses solar at 31% of its facilities and Johnson & Johnson is third in the percentage of its sites with solar power at 28%.
The current total of installed solar by large adopters such as the companies above represents 16% of all non-residential and non-utility-scale solar capacity in the country. Collectively, these systems generate 1.5 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year. That’s enough to power 193,000 homes and offset 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Are corporations doing this because they are altruistic and want to help save the environment? That may be part of it, but the real motivation is money. Solar is now cheaper than conventional electrical power in many a location. Solar just makes good economic sense for businesses. It also insulates them against future price increases that utility companies routinely pass along to their customers.
Despite the idiocy issuing from inside the Trump administration, solar does mean business, as does climate action in general. Unless the Trumpster plans to order American businesses to burn coal in the basements of their stores and factories, they will seek out the most reliable and least expensive electricity they can find. For most, solar is the right answer at the right time.