Adoption rate of solar energy by top US businesses grows 183% in four years

FedEx rooftop solar
© FedEx

Solar energy is proving to be an affordable source of clean electricity for more US businesses, and adoption rates are rapidly growing, with solar installations seeing 59% growth in just the last year alone.

According to the latest version of a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), titled Solar Means Business, US businesses are choosing solar energy at record rates, and not because they're all granola-eating treehuggers, but because it makes sense to their bottom line. Thanks in part to rapidly falling solar costs, which for commercial projects has dropped almost 30% over the last three years, and which hit a low of just a hair over $3 per watt earlier this year, going solar is a cost-effective method of not only reducing a company's carbon footprint, but also reducing its overall costs.

This year's Solar Means Business study, which looks at "major commercial solar projects" as well as ranking the top corporate solar energy users, covered more than 1,680 commercial solar systems across the country, with a combined generating capacity of some 907 MW. This is said to be the equivalent of powering more than 158,000 average homes, and to equal an offset of some 890,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.

"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." - SEIA

The list of top companies ranked by the study for going solar at significant pace reads like a who's who of corporate American, with Walmart coming in at the top slot, accompanied by a fair number of other household names, including Apple, IKEA, Kohl's, FedEx, General Motors, L'Oreal, Toyota, and more. These top companies installed a combined 338 MW of solar over the last year, which is a 59% increase over last year's installations tracked by the study.

"These blue-chip companies have realized investing in solar is a common-sense, cost-effective decision that pays dividends for both the environment and their bottom lines. Not only are they helping to create thousands of American jobs in solar, the nearly 1,700 systems currently in operation are generating enough clean, reliable electricity to offset nearly 890,000 metric tons of harmful carbon emissions a year." - Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO

Walmart comes out the clear leader in the corporate solar sector, as it has for the last four years, with 142 MW of solar capacity at 348 locations, and although the retail giant's sustainability efforts are open to dispute, Mark Vanderhelm, VP of energy for Walmart, said the company aims to double the number of "on-site solar energy projects" at its US stores, distribution centers, and Sam's Club locations by 2020, which may keep it solidly out front in the US business solar rankings.

Even as we celebrate the growth of large-scale solar and corporate solar adoption rates in the US, one sobering note in the study points out that there are now commercial solar installations in 38 states (along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia), that still leaves more than 10 states with no commercial/corporate solar installations whatsoever.

For the full data on the Solar Means Business study, as well as an interactive map of US corporate solar projects, see the SEIA website.

Adoption rate of solar energy by top US businesses grows 183% in four years
Solar energy is proving to be not only a good source of clean electricity for US businesses, but an economically viable one as well, with a growth of 59% in just the last year alone.

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