Target is the top corporate installer of solar power in the USA with 147MW installed on 300 stores. Walmart is close behind with 140MW, while Ikea has installed solar on 90% of its retail locations. The Solar Energy Institute of America (SEIA) report shows over 1,000MW of solar installed in almost 2,000 unique installations by the largest corporate entities in the country. Additionally these groups have more than doubled their installation volume year on year, with 2015 seeing a total of 130MW, while 2016 is projected to be closer to 280MW.
Renewable energy juggernaut Apple, who is building and managing their own ‘electric utility’ in the USA while aiming for 4,000MW solar power globally, proudly defended their clean energy investments – “If you want (Apple) to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.” But it turns out, Solar is pretty damn good for ROI…
Big box retail locations offer some of the best potential spaces for solar power to be installed – on top of square, flat structures and in previously built parking lots. The average size of an installation by a company in this group is about 500kW – 75X the size of an average residential solar installation. The RE100 organization has signed up 81 global corporations (many on the SEIA list) who have pledged 100% renewable energy.
“We’re incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in improving building efficiencies and reducing environmental impact. Our commitment to installing solar panels on 500 stores and distribution centers by 2020 is evidence of that progress” – said John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target.
The geographic breakdown of solar installations is based upon three main drivers – good sunlight, expensive electricity and state level renewable mandates, with Southern California having all three. The northeast USA, with its expensive electricity and aggressive clean energy push, has been on par with California (50% of total solar) for commercial installations. A report put together by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) breaks down the various state level laws that support corporations going green – and, without surprise, it becomes clear that the legal support of renewable energy is a definite driver.
While it might seem that corporate america is going strange – focusing on ‘green energy’ instead of revenue – the reality is that these decisions are mainly economically focused. As part of my day job building commercial and industrial solar, I have found that ‘environmental’ reasoning is often not part of the sales conversation. The financial modeling and corporate CPAs dictate the progression of these projects. For instance (see image below) – while a Rhode Island commercial installations can potentially cover its initial investment in about three years, the corporation building these units must take into account that 50% of the system’s incentives come via a Federal 30% Tax Credit and standard depreciation.
So if your company (or your home for that matter) hasn’t thought about going solar because “it cares more about the bottom line than the environment,” solar still often makes sense. See if it makes sense for you here.