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U.S. corporate solar investments grow to 8300 MW

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Research by the national trade group reveals that Walmart increased solar usage by 35 percent in 2019 while Facebook jumped 18 positions in the corporate solar ranking and Apple stayed top for the second year in a row.

Tech companies, major retailers and other corporate leaders make substantial investments in renewable energy and installed 1,286 megawatts ( MW) of new commercial solar power in the United States in 2019, the second largest year on record according to the latest Solar Means Business report.

The annual report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) tracks both on-site and off-site installations and highlights the clear appeal of cost-saving solar energy to American businesses.

“The world’s most recognizable brands are walking the walk when it comes to their clean energy commitments. Businesses are choosing solar energy because it can significantly curb their energy costs and add predictability during these uncertain times. We expect that the corporate sector will make greater investments in solar as businesses make and follow through on clean energy commitments to address the climate crisis.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA.

Apple and Amazon remain in first and second position when it comes to top corporate solar consumers, followed by Walmart, which installed the most solar power in 2019 and expanded its solar usage by 35 percent. This year was also the highest year for 845 MW installed on-site commercial solar installations.

Apple, which has the most off-site solar installed since 2019, now has almost 400 MW of solar energy in its portfolio and recently committed to making its supply chain and goods 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030.

“The choice between a healthy planet and good business strategy has always been a false one, and we’ve proved that with a company that runs on 100% clean energy and a supply chain transitioning to do the same. Solar power has been part of our environmental journey for more than a decade, and we’re grateful to the SEIA for this recognition of the strides we’ve made, and the strides of two of our suppliers also in the SEIA top 25. Together, we’ll reach our goal of making all our products with a net zero climate impact by 2030, and hopefully, inspire others to act urgently in defense of our planet and future generations.”

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

The study monitors 8,358 MW of commercial solar energy in more than 38,000 systems. Combined, the systems produce enough electricity each year to fuel 1.6 million homes and offset 8.9 million metric tons of CO2 each year.

For the sake of comparison, more than 7.2 million people, or 2.2 percent of the U.S. population, shop at a Walmart store with a solar facility every week.

“Our growth in solar use reflects our ongoing and longstanding commitment to climate action, including getting to 100% renewable energy globally by 2035. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding the worst effects of climate change will take sustained, collective action. It’s terrific to see so many companies growing their solar use and taking steps towards a renewable future.”

Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer, Walmart.
Image: SEIA

Corporations continue to buy off-site solar to fuel their operations and achieve their ambitious renewable energy targets. Over the next five years, an additional 5 GW of corporate off-site solar projects are expected to be introduced online, more than double the cumulative amount of off-site corporate solar projects.

“As a signatory to The Climate Pledge, we’re committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early and reaching net zero carbon across Amazon by 2040. As part of this commitment, we are well on our way to power Amazon operations using 100% renewable energy by 2025, with over 90 wind and solar projects across the globe.”

Chris Roe, energy and sustainable operations lead at Amazon.

Facebook, one of the top off-site solar customers, is making its first appearance in the top 10 and making the biggest leap forward, moving from 27th to 9th in the top corporate solar consumer list. Goal, the organization with the most solar power installed at its plant, finished 2019 with a total of 283 MW of solar power. The company currently has more than 500 solar projects in its portfolio.

Companies are now doubling their contribution to renewable energy. Several businesses on this list have recently announced more ambitious renewable energy targets, including Google, which is ranked 5th and now aims to operate its data centers and corporate campuses at 100 percent carbon-free by 2030.

Walmart has announced plans to fuel its facilities globally with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and to achieve zero emissions across its global operations by 2040.

Other listed companies, including Amazon, Microsoft and Solvay, have recently announced new measures and investments to minimize emissions and green their operations.

“We are honored to be recognized again by SEIA for our commitment to increasing solar power in our operations. Solar power plays a key role in our Solvay One Planet initiative, which aims to reduce our emissions by 26% by 2030. We’ll continue developing solar projects to help enable the energy transition, particularly in the US.”

Pascal Chalvon Demersay, Solvay’s chief sustainability & energy officer. 

Others, such as Prologis, have clear objectives for solar roofing, and Switch and Walmart are starting to use energy storage.

“This acknowledgement further cements Switch’s position as a leader in sustainability, which tremendously benefits our customers, the communities where we operate and our planet. Switch continues to lead the challenge to expand solar by recently breaking ground on critical projects like Rob Roy’s Gigawatt Nevada, which will generate a Gigawatt of solar combined with battery storage, providing clean energy solutions far into the future.”

Adam Kramer, Switch EVP of strategy.

“As the world’s largest owner and operator of logistics real estate, Prologis is committed to minimizing our environmental impacts, and every solar panel installed helps us get closer in the transition to clean energy. Rooftop solar is a vital component of Prologis’ growing portfolio of customer-focused renewable energy solutions, and we are proud to be honored by SEIA as we work toward our goal of doubling our onsite generating capacity to 400 megawatts by 2025.”

Jared Friedman, Prologis, vice president of Global Energy. 
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