From large and leading corporations to small, local companies, U.S. businesses are making significant investments in solar to cut energy costs, improving their bottom line, and staying ahead of competition. Electricity costs represent the single largest operating expense for many companies. In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, solar means business.
Solar is more affordable than ever for American businesses: the average price of a completed commercial PV installation has decreased 30% since the beginning of the 2011. The continuously declining solar system prices and the adoption of innovated financing models that can reduce up-front costs have continued to improve the solar value proposition to companies, encouraging more and more companies to open their investment portfolios to solar installations.
Rising and volatile utility prices present a challenge to companies’ long-term budgets. Whether a solar installation is purchased upfront or financed through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or lease, solar offers long-term price visibility and a valuable hedge against rising and volatile conventional electricity rates. Besides, companies can offset tax liability using the federal investment tax credit while powering their facilities.
Businesses have adopted solar at an unprecedented rate. Since last year, U.S. businesses, non-profit organizations, and government institutions have installed over 1,000MW of new PV solar installations. As of mid 2013, commercial PV installations totaled 3,380MW at over 32,800 facilities throughout the U.S., representing an increase of over 40% compared with last year.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Vote Solar Initiative have released their annual Solar Means Business (SMB) report, identifying major commercial solar projects and ranking America’s top corporate solar users.
Top 25 companies by capacity. Source: Vote Solar and SEIA
Walmart remains America’s commercial solar leader with 89MW at 215 locations according to the report. The Top 25 companies, ranked by installed capacity, are Walmart, Costco, Kohl’s, Apple, IKEA, Macy’s, Johnson & Johnson, McGraw Hill, Staples, Campbell’s Soup, U.S. Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kaiser Permanente, Volkswagen, Walgreens, Target, Safeway, FedEx, Intel, L’OREAL, General Motors, Toys “R” Us, White Rose Foods, Toyota, and Dow Jones & Company.
The increased solar adoption by major corporations included in the SMB report reflects the growth displayed in the overall commercial solar sector over the last year. The 25 companies with the highest total solar capacity as of August 2013 have deployed more than 445MW at over 950 different facilities, enough to power 73,400 American homes. This is up 48% from 2012, when the top 25 businesses had installed just over 300MW at 730 facilities.
“The list of companies moving to clean, affordable solar energy reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “These iconic brands are leading the way when it comes to efforts to reduce our nation’s dangerous dependence on foreign energy sources. They’re also helping to create thousands of American jobs, boost the U.S. economy and improve our environment. At the same time, they’re reducing operating expenses, which benefits both their customers and shareholders.”
The report also ranks the top 25 companies by number of solar energy systems, the top 5 companies in the food services, health and beauty, and automobile sectors, and the top 10 retail companies. The companies analyzed for this report have deployed systems in 30 states and Puerto Rico. Solar growth among these leading businesses reflects the growth in the U.S. commercial solar sector as a whole.
Top 25 companies by solar systems installed. Source: Vote Solar and SEIA
Company rankings by industry sector. Source: Vote Solar and SEIA
Usage rate of solar on company facilities for select businesses that ranked highly in both installed capacity and number of installations. Note: this list is a comparison of some of the top commercial solar users in the report’s analysis; the list is not a full ranking. Source: Vote Solar and SEIA
“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’ Well, solar has turned the corner, and found itself on Main Street, USA. These companies – titans of American business – may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.
Solar Means Business 2013 not only ranks companies by the combined installed capacity and the number of operating installations, but also shows the geographic diversity of their solar deployment. The commercial solar growth is occurring in new state markets too. The companies analyzed for SEIA and Vote Solar’s report have deployed systems in 30 states and Puerto Rico. According to the report, more than one out of every three Americans lives within 20 miles of at least one of these businesses’ solar installations.
Source: Vote Solar and SEIA
IKEA has the goal of being energy independent by 2020, and recently expanded the solar array on top of its store in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Mike Ward, president, IKEA U.S. commented: We are pleased with the progress we have made towards installing solar panels atop nearly 90 percent of our U.S. locations. We appreciate the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Vote Solar Initiative for acknowledging our commitment to sustainability as represented by our investment in solar photovoltaic technology. We are honored to be recognized for helping contribute to the development, expansion and promotion of the U.S. solar industry as we work toward our goal of using 100 percent renewable energy in our operations.”
SEIA today announced the winners of this year’s Solar Champion Awards, honoring top U.S. companies for their continued commitment to the deployment of clean solar energy. The Solar Champion awards were presented at a ceremony during Solar Power International 2013.
Costco, FedEx, General Motors, IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, Kohl’s, L’Oréal, Macy’s, Safeway, Toyota, Walgreens and Walmart were among the companies honored at a ceremony at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
“America’s solar energy industry recognizes these companies for their ongoing commitment to the environment and outstanding leadership in the area of corporate responsibility,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.
“Corporate use of clean solar energy is step forward in America’s efforts to become energy independent, while creating jobs and boosting local economies. Today we’re proud to salute these companies as Solar Champions.”
The entire Solar Means Business report can be viewed here.