Big US companies agree solar is good business, with Walmart leading the way

Ilario D'Amato
17 October 2014

NEW YORK: Solar continues to be chosen by top US businesses, who are going renewable to secure reliable and affordable energy  and a leading position in the emerging low carbon economy.

According to the just published report Solar Means Business by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the 25 companies with the most solar capacity in the US have installed 1,110 solar energy systems at their facilities as of August 2014, totaling 569 megawatts (MW), which is enough energy to power more than 115,000 homes.

This also means the companies are preventing emissions of almost 550,000 metric tons of carbon and saving nearly 62 million gallons of gasoline.


The total figure represents a 28% increase relative to the 445 MW installed last year, and is more than double the 279 MW capacity reached two years ago. In total, US businesses have installed more than 32,000 solar systems since 2010.

The reason for this rise, according to the report, largely depends on the continued decrease in the price of photovoltaics, especially in the face of soaring energy bills.

For commercial users, average electricity rates have increased more than 20% in ten years, from US$0.08 per kilowatt-hour to more than US$0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

Since the commercial sector consumes more than 1.3 trillion kilowatt-hours each year, pressure has also been amplified by the high instability in the price of fossil fuels, as shown in the graph below.


Given these figures, solar photovoltaic should clearly be included in all business strategies. However, even if the average price of a completed commercial photovoltaic project as of August 2014 has dropped by 14% compared to last year and by more than 45% since 2012, not every company can afford the still high price of the initial installation.

For this reason, there is a growing market for so-called third-party ownership, where another company designs, constructs, owns and operates the solar system, and then sells electricity produced by it directly to the customer at reduced rates.

Similarly, some real estate investment trusts are transforming undeveloped land and unused roofs by installing photovoltaic systems.

Another point underlined by the report is that companies who had installed solar systems continue to do so, demonstrating that solar investment is good for their businesses.

“These forward-looking companies are helping to create thousands of American jobs, boost the US economy and improve our environment,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO. “Businesses are going solar because solar is good business”.


Multinational Walmart dominates this special league with 105.1 MW of installed capacity across 254 systems, trailed by the department store retail chain Kohl’s with 50.2 MW and 158 systems. Apple comes fourth with 40.7 MW after Costco, while IKEA is in fifth position with 39.1 MW; 87% of the Swedish company’s facilities are solar-powered.

Solar is just one option for a new generation of leading businesses who are looking to go renewable as a means of securing reliable and affordable energy, and benefitting from the new low carbon economy.

Last month, top companies including IKEA, Swiss Re, BT, Formula E, H&M, Mars, Nestlé, Philips and Yoox, joined a powerful new group of NGOs and clean energy experts to launch RE100. The multi-year initiative, which is supported by We Mean Business and delivered in partnership with The Climate Group and CDP, aims to encourage 100 major companies to commit to using 100% renewable power by 2020.

Ben Ferrari, The Climate Group’s Director of Partnerships said: “We are delighted with the ambition of leading companies to go 100% renewable. We plan to continue to grow this group and expand our outreach in China and India over the coming year. It is an exciting time for renewable power.”

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