Solar Means Business: Top 20 US Corporate Solar Customers are Iconic Brands

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Last week Vote Solar and our partners at SEIA released a report on the Top 20 corporate users of solar power in the U.S. Our Executive Director Adam Browning joined SEIA’s Rhone Resch and GM’s Head of Renewable Energy at a press conference to announce the findings at Solar Power International in Orlando. Those findings might surprise you . . .

Solar energy is being deployed on a massive scale by the most iconic brands and best-managed companies in the U.S. in order to help lower operating costs and increase profits.

The Top 20 in terms of the amount of on-site solar capacity installed are: Walmart, Costco, Kohl’s Department Stores, IKEA, Macy’s, McGraw-Hill, Johnson & Johnson, Staples, Inc., Campbell’s Soup, Walgreens, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Toys ‘R’ Us, General Motors, FedEx, White Rose Foods, Dow Jones, Snyder’s of Hanover, ProLogis, Hartz Mountain Industries, and Crayola. See the full report at www.seia.org/SolarTop20

“What do all of these major businesses have in common?” Browning asks. “They know a good deal when they see one, and so they are all going solar in a big way across the U.S.”

In fact, the Top 20 corporate solar users’ installations generate an estimated $47.3 million worth of electricity each year. The industry more than doubled the amount of solar installed in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year compared to 2011, and growth is expected to continue in the second half of 2012.

Other companies that are significant users of solar include Apple, Bloomberg LP, Del Monte Foods, GE, Google, Intel, JC Penny, Kaiser Permanente, Lackland Storage, Lord & Taylor, L’OREAL USA, MARS SNACKFOOD, US Foods LLC, Stop and Shop, Merck, REI, SAS Institute Inc., and Tiffany & CO.

“These companies know that solar energy allows them to reliably manage their long-term energy costs and in turn also helps to keep their customer prices low,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Solar helps these top American companies focus on their core business by reducing overhead costs.”

Some of our other key findings from the report:

    • The amount of solar installed by the Top 20 solar-powered companies could power more than 46,500 average American homes. Altogether, U.S. commercial solar installations could power more than 390,000 American homes.

    • The companies analyzed for this report have deployed more than 700 individual solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their facilities in at least 25 states and Puerto Rico.

    • More than 1.2 million solar PV panels were used for the Top 20 corporate solar users’ installations. Combined, these arrays would cover more than 544 acres of rooftops.

    • Walmart and Costco combined have more solar PV installed on their store rooftops than all of the PV capacity deployed in the state of Florida, the Sunshine State.

    • The top 10 companies (by capacity) have individually deployed more solar energy than most electric utilities in the U.S.

  • But don’t take it from us. Read what these smart businesses have to say about going solar:

    “Walmart has an ambitious commitment to be powered entirely by renewable energy, and we’ve made significant progress toward this goal in recent years as renewable energy options, especially solar power, have become more affordable,” said Kim Saylors-Laster, vice president for energy, Walmart. “We have plans to continue our investment in solar energy, expanding the number of locations powered by the sun, and we hope to use our scale to drive down prices for all renewable technologies.”

    “General Motors has been investing in solar power for years, so being named among other companies with strong solar programs, like Walmart and IKEA, is validation that our initiatives are on the right track,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president, sustainability and global regulatory affairs. “But our focus on renewable energy doesn’t stop at the sun. By 2020, our goal is to promote the use of all forms of renewable energy by using 125 megawatts across our entire corporate footprint.”

    “We are thrilled with the progress we have made towards installing solar panels atop 89 percent of our U.S. locations,” said Mike Ward, president, IKEA U.S. “We appreciate the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Vote Solar Initiative for acknowledging our commitment to sustainability as represented by our investment in solar photovoltaic technology. It is flattering, yet humbling, to be recognized for helping contribute to the development, expansion and promotion of the U.S. solar industry, but we believe it is just part of being a good business while doing good business.”

    “Not only do our solar locations provide an immediate cost savings to Kohl’s, they serve as examples of our environmental commitment in action. As a national retailer with more than 1,100 stores, we consistently challenge ourselves to find new ways to reduce the operational footprint of our facilities, to be more energy efficient, use fewer resources and be a good neighbor in the communities where we do business. It’s exciting when we are able to add solar panels to a store, because it becomes part of a shopper’s Kohl’s experience. Even if they can’t immediately see the solar panels on the roof – similar to how they might not see all of the characteristics that make a store ENERGY STAR-labeled or LEED-certified, they know Kohl’s is working to be a good environmental steward and to make responsible choices about how we operate our stores,” said John Worthington, Kohl’s chief administrative officer.

    “We are proud to be a retail industry leader in hosting solar power, which is a critical element of our strategy for sustainability at Macy’s, Inc.,” said Bill Lyon, Macy’s vice president for energy management. “Solar power systems offer an affordable way for Macy’s to reduce operating costs and lower energy consumption by using clean, renewable solar power.”

    “We are always exploring new and innovative ways to expand our use of environmentally-friendly technology to reduce our energy consumption,” said Mark Wagner, Walgreens president of operations and community management. “Walgreens is committed to the health and wellness of the communities we serve and to the sustainability of our planet. Our use of solar power nationwide is a great example of how businesses, communities and developers of green technologies can work together to help make a difference.”

    “FedEx is dedicated to connecting the world more efficiently while minimizing our impact on the environment,” said Mitch Jackson, staff vice president, environmental affairs and sustainability, FedEx Corp. “Deploying solar technologies at our facilities helps us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations while providing more sustainable options for our customers.”

    “Investing in solar power confirms our commitment to environmental responsibility. Dow Jones wants to be one of the companies making a difference,” said Dean Del Vecchio, CIO of Dow Jones & Company. “Solar power is a renewable reminder that clean energy is possible and that responsible businesses can make it happen.”

    “We see solar playing an increasingly important role in our energy mix. We will add several megawatts to our portfolio in the next couple of years,” said Curtis Ravenel, global head of sustainability at Bloomberg. “The environmental and financial benefits are attractive on multiple levels for us as a firm and we are actively pursuing other investment opportunities in the field.”

    Here’s how the Top 20 by installed capacity stack up:

    Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

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    About Author

    Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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