In the not-so-distant past, the main benefit of commercial solar adoption was rooted in affecting environmental change. Early photovoltaic (PV) technology adopters saw it as a potential solution to what had become a global energy crisis.
And for that, they were called hippies, tree-huggers and any number of pejorative environmentalist monikers. But they didn’t care. They shrugged off the short-sighted labels and persevered, pushing PV as a viable alternative energy source and lauding the environmental impact of solar power.
It worked. Today, solar energy adoption is at an all-time high (in 2016, the U.S. increased its solar installations by 95%, the highest growth rate on record). Only now, it’s not just the environmentalists championing the cause. According to a recent SunPower survey*, 87% of business respondents cite saving money as one of the primary reasons for funding solar projects—with some projected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) in electricity costs over the life of their commercial solar panel system.
While financial gain has jockeyed to the number one solar energy benefit position, environmental impact is still very much in the mix, followed by brand elevation in third place.
You could look at this as a negative shift in human values, but we see this as potentially presenting solar energy as a more attractive solution to a greater number of companies. And as the benefits of sustainable business practices continue to grow and evolve, everyone can “profit” from the end-result.
The main drivers for adopting solar energy: at a glance
Here’s a diagram outlining the motivating factors for going solar, based on the SunPower survey. As you can see, some business respondents cited Financial Gain and Environmental Impact as equally weighted. But the total for Financial Gain-related answers reveals that 87% are motivated by profits or saving money. A total of 54% are in it for the Environmental Impact, and 31% cite Brand Elevation as a driving force for commercial solar adoption.
The new solar power benefit order
Going solar has many companies seeing green, but let’s explore all the benefits in the new order of solar power benefits:
1. Financial gain
By investing in a solar system, businesses have the potential to reduce their electric bills significantly. That’s because the energy produced by solar panels is not only used to power facilities, it can potentially earn you credit with your local utility.
When the sun is shining brightly, your panels may produce excess power, allowing you to send the extra energy to the grid for credit against your utility bill. This credit can help offset the cost of the electricity you need to pull from the grid at night or during other not-so-sunny times.
Also, electricity prices are highly volatile and difficult to predict. By generating your own clean electricity onsite, you can potentially eliminate your company's exposure to price volatility.
2. Environmental impact
Our “take, make and dispose” global consumption model hasn’t worked for quite some time. In fact, it’s tested the limits of our planet’s resources. Now, climate change threatens everything from our water quality to our food supply and wildlife habitats.
But solar power, unlike fossil fuels (coal and oil), is a clean, green inexhaustible supply of renewable power. So, it produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions (CO2)—the main culprit behind pollution, chronic health conditions and global warming.
That’s a major win for the globe. Based on SunPower’s data alone, by generating electricity from the sun instead of fossil fuels, SunPower® products have enabled home and business owners to avoid more than 27 million tons of CO2 emissions**. And results are mounting every year. In 2016 alone, installed SunPower products helped avoid more than 7.27 million tons—equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from powering 767,000 homes**. Considering SunPower is one of many solar companies around the world helping to drive this change at a global level, it’s clear that the impact is very real.
3. Brand elevation
Outside of benefiting the bottom line and being responsible inhabitants of the earth, almost a third of businesses surveyed cite brand elevation as a motivating factor in the decision to invest in solar technology.
Why? Because it sends a powerful message. It says, “We’re committed to renewable energy and we care about the environment.” This can foster an immeasurable sense of intimacy with potential customers, existing customers and prospective employees. Who doesn’t want to buy from and/or work for a company that puts emphasis on giving back to our planet and its future residents?
Aside from helping you answer the question of how to attract new customers and top talent, going solar can help demonstrate your stance on reducing our dependence on foreign energy. That, right there, could be worth its weight in gold (or coal).
All in all, no matter why organizations consider a full-scale solar installation, the potential benefits remain the same:
- Saving on energy costs
- Helping to preserve a failing environment
- Improving brand perception in the eyes of (current and potential) customers and employees
This is what you might consider a win-win-win—and the benefits just keep coming.
*SunPower Brand Awareness Survey, October 2016.
**According to estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.