Solar Energy is Taking Over the Corporate World

ForbesJuly 29, 20191506


Solar energy is edging its way into the corporate world. With Apple and Amazon leading the way, there are now 7,000 MW of commercial solar panel installations that are operating today generate 10.7 million MWh of solar electricity annually, enough to power 1.4 million homes. Apple leads the corporations with 393 MW installed, which is followed by Amazon at 330 MW. Target, Walmart, and Google both have 242 MW, 209 MW, and 143 MW. One of the reasons for this boost in solar energy is the decline in the cost of solar panels, more flexible financing, and climate-friendly state and local policies.

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Solar Energy is Taking Over the Corporate World

America’s top corporations are pouring investments into solar energy – led by Apple and Amazon— according to a newly released report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Following mixed growth in the early part of this decade, corporate solar energy adoption has surged over the past several years, “with more than half of all capacity installed since 2016.” Over that time period, Apple leads all corporates with 393 MW installed, followed by Amazon at 330 MW. Target, Walmart, and Google boast 242 MW, 209 MW, and 143 MW respectively. Declining costs of solar panels, more flexible financing and climate-friendly state and local policies are accelerating commercial solar panels adoption.

According to the report, the 7,000 MW of commercial solar panel installations operating today generate 10.7 million MWh of solar electricity annually, enough to power 1.4 million homes.

SEIA president and CEO Abigail Hooper states that “Top solar companies are increasingly investing in clean, reliable solar energy because it makes economic sense…when global brands go solar, the rest of the world takes note.”

The July report tracks more than 7,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity across 35,000 projects in 43 states, representing more than 70% of all commercial solar power capacity installed in the U.S. These are not simply utility-scale solar power projects but include a host of commercial solar panel installations ranging from rooftop solar-powered systems to solar parking canopies to large solar panel installations powering critical data centers.

Amazon, which now has 50 rooftop solar panel installations operating across its fulfillment and sorting facilities, states that these rooftops are capable of generating upwards of 80% of the solar energy needs of each building annually.

According to Deloitte’s 2019 energy report, strong fundamentals, emerging policies, an expanding investment community, and advancing technologies will likely underpin global renewable energy growth in 2019, especially in the United States. On the supply side, grid operators increasingly have the tools and experience necessary to integrate greater volumes of renewables into the grid. Technological advances and declining costs of solar panels are also driving strong supply-side growth.

Developments in the solar energy market are being driven by primarily one factor – significant decreases in costs. In 2009, for example, the average gross cost of solar panel installations was $8.50 per watt. Now? Just shy of $2.98 – a 65% decrease in 10 years. Of course, this is simply an average, In February 2018, a 300MW tender in Saudi Arabia broke a world record, producing solar power at a price of $2.34 per watt. At the end of the day, this trend will continue at a rapid pace – increasing demand for solar energy and other associated technologies in the value chain, including lithium-ion batteries.

With prices falling and more flexible financing and procurement structures available to corporations, we can expect the trend of commercial solar generation capacity additions to continue. The beauty of capitalism is that companies will pursue those strategies which reduce costs and increase revenue. Growing adoptions of solar energy projects among America’s top corporations are a bellwether for the industry at large: solar energy is finally starting to make economic sense.

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