US commercial solar energy continues gaining steam, with Walmart leading the way in terms of total installed solar power capacity (despite recent criticism for funding anti-solar organizations).
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has just come out with its third annual Solar Means Business report, showcasing the most recent trends in corporate use of solar power.
US businesses, governments, and nonprofits installed for a second year in a row over 1,000 MW of solar power capacity. A total of 41,803 businesses, nonprofits, and governments have a cumulative capacity of 4,531 MW.
Meanwhile, large corporations lead the way in commercial installations. A total of 569 MW were installed from 25 top corporation at 1,110 locations. That’s an increase from 445 MW (28%) last year and 279 MW (103%) two years ago.
Walmart again led the way amongst the top 25 corporations in installations, with 105.10 MW.
Rounding out the top five installers were Kohl’s (50.2 MW), Costco (48.1 MW), Apple (40.7 MW), and IKEA (39.1 MW).
Target also made big gains this year, going from 16th to 8th, with 14.9 MW added.
IKEA had the highest percentage of locations having solar installed, at an impressive 90%. General Motors was second at 43%.
Falling solar prices have been critical to growing commercial interest in solar. Cost of commercial solar power plants in 2014 Q2 fell 1% on a year-over-year basis, and more than 45% in two years.
SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said commercial investment in solar has cut 549,296 metric tons of carbon emissions, or the equivalent of 62 million gallons of gas.
“What do Walmart, Costco and Apple have in common besides selling cell phones and computers? These iconic brands, and many others like them, are all investing big in solar energy,” Resch said.
However, despite big business going green and investing in solar, it has been put under public scrutiny in recent weeks.
Just last week, a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) criticized Walmart owners, the Walton family, for funding groups including American Legal Exchange Council (ALEC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) that oppose renewable energy policy.
Also, Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, has chastised partnerships between big business and big green organizations as the solution for environmental problems. Klein argues companies, including Walmart, have pushed for global policies which increased carbon emissions and encouraged urban sprawl.
While ILSR and Klein have been rightly critical of big business environmental abuses, large corporations are not going to crumble in the foreseeable future, so we really need them to be on our side. Business sees renewables, including solar, as a cost benefit to them in reducing energy expenses. That view will only increase, as will corporate solar installations, so we should at least be happy about that.
The 3rd Solar Means Business report highlights a more pro-active road taken to solve climate problems. Let’s celebrate the success of US commercial solar energy, while holding those companies accountable when needed.