Corporations ‘walking the walk’ with clean energy as US C&I solar capacity soars

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Apple’s headquarters in Silicon Valley is powered by 100% renewable energy and features a 17MW rooftop solar installation. Image: Apple.

Led by tech firms and retailers, corporations installed 1,286MW of new solar capacity in the US in 2019, the second highest amount on record, a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has revealed.

Over 8,350MW of commercial solar capacity has now been developed across more than 38,000 US systems. Topping the list are Apple and Amazon, followed by Walmart, which installed the most solar among corporations in 2019 and increased its use by 35%. Last year also saw more onsite commercial solar installed than ever before, reaching 845MW.

SEIA says the rapid decline in the price of solar PV has been the primary driver of recent commercial solar expansion, while the proliferation of renewable energy goals among the world’s largest companies has also increased the technology's uptake.

Apple, which hit its 100% renewable energy goal in 2018 and recently pledged to make its supply chain carbon neutral by 2030, now has nearly 400MW of solar capacity in its portfolio.

The full top ten corporate solar users in the US includes: Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Google, Kaiser Permanente, Switch, Prologis, Facebook and Solvay.

“The world’s most recognisable brands are walking the walk when it comes to their clean energy commitments,” Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO at SEIA, said. “Businesses are choosing solar energy because it can significantly curb their energy costs and add predictability during these uncertain times.”

California, New York and Massachusetts lead the US for commercial solar installations. Image: SEIA.

SEIA forecasts that the corporate sector will continue to invest in solar as companies follow through on clean energy commitments. Over the next few years, an additional 5GW of corporate off-site solar projects are slated to come online, more than doubling the current installed capacity.

Facebook, one of the biggest buyers of off-site solar, has made its debut in the top ten and has taken the biggest leap forward, jumping from 27th to ninth on SEIA's list. Target, the company with the most solar capacity installed at its facilities, finished 2019 with a total of 283MW of solar capacity and more than 500 solar projects in its portfolio.

The report notes that California continues to lead the US for commercial solar due to a supportive policy environment and excellent solar resources, resulting in a diverse mix of smaller on-site and larger off-site projects. High building density and green policies mean New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts are also among the top states.

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