Corporate Investment In Solar Energy Surges
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 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, more flexible financing, and climate-friendly state and local policies are accelerating commercial solar adoption.
According to the report, the 7,000 MW of commercial solar installations operating today generate 10.7 million MWh of electricity annually, enough to power 1.4 million homes.
SEIA president and CEO Abigail Hooper states that “Top 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 capacity installed in the U.S. These are not simply utility-scale solar projects but include a host of commercial installations ranging from rooftop systems to solar parking canopies to large solar installations powering critical data centers.
Amazon, which now has 50 rooftop solar installations operating across its fulfillment and sorting facilities, states that these rooftops are capable of generating upwards of 80% of the 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 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 installing a solar panel 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 projects among America’s top corporations are a bellwether for the industry at large: solar is finally starting to make economic sense.