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American Businesses Installing More Solar Than Ever

Last week the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released a report highlighting the rapid growth in the use of solar energy by American businesses.  According to the study, the top corporate solar users now operate 1,686 solar systems producing 907 MW of electricity, enough to power more than 158,000 homes.  Solar energy use by these top companies has skyrocketed 183 percent over the last four years, and solar installations have increased 59 percent in the last year alone.  Solar represents a sustainable and cost-effective investment for US companies as commercial solar prices have dropped by nearly 30 percent in three years and are at their lowest point ever.  Overall, installed solar capacity in the U.S. has increased thirtyfold since 2006 and could power 5.5 million households by the end of 2015.  Read on to find out more about the top companies leading the solar charge and the variations in mounting and facility types being utilized by these businesses.

Solar installation offers a wide array of selections for mounting and facility type.  Constituting more than 90% of the 1,314 systems with available information, roof-mounted systems provide the most cost-effective scaling options but can be limited in size due to roof space availability.  Companies frequently take advantage of the unutilized roof space of manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and warehouses to install these systems.  Ground-mounted systems are typically the largest installations and are commonly used to power companies’ data centers.  One of the sector’s fast-growing areas in terms of total installations and average system size is carports, with 42 of its 67 projects developing since 2012 and the average size increasing from 600 kW through 2012 to 790 kW since 2013.

For the fourth year in a row, Walmart is ranked number 1 in the report in both electric capacity and number of projects, possessing 142 MW of solar PV capacity at 348 locations.  Ikea represents the most geographically expansive company with solar powered locations in 22 different states.  Walgreens was the most active institution in 2015, installing 85 systems at retail locations across the country.  These companies, along with many others, are leading the way in solar investment as commercial solar installations expanded to three more states this year (Arkansas, Kansas and Indiana) and are now located in 38 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.  In total, these 1,686 systems are generating enough electricity to offset almost 890,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

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Sahir Surmeli

Member / Co-chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Sahir Surmeli is a Mintz business counselor who advises companies, boards, entrepreneurs, investment banks, and venture and private equity investors as they build and grow companies. He handles public offerings, 144A and private financings, acquisitions, joint ventures, and strategic partnerships.