Solar means business, now more than ever: The top U.S. companies using solar energy

April 19, 2016 Leslie Hancock

Leading companies using solar energy are paving the way for other businessesU.S. businesses continue to adopt solar at a rapid pace, and it’s becoming clear this trend of companies using solar energy is not just a feel-good move for tree-hugging corporations looking for positive PR. Though they certainly do get good press for going solar, meeting corporate sustainability goals by making the switch to renewable solar energy also helps businesses do their part to help the environment. Plus, it’s proving that going solar can be good for their bottom lines. 

Is this a bandwagon your business should be jumping on? The answer is…maybe. There are a lot of things to consider, but it’s worth noting that some of the nation’s largest and most successful companies have embraced commercial solar energy solutions. 

Let’s take a look at the solar leaderboard from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Solar Means Business report. I’m guessing you’ll recognize most of these brands, as they are leaders in their industries and have achieved sustained business success.

Top 25 companies using solar energy based on commercial solar capacity

Top 25 businesses ranked by their total on-site installed solar capacity,
or the maximum power potential measured in megawatts (MW)

The who’s who of America’s leading companies using solar energy

Walmart once again took the top spot, by a pretty wide margin, boasting a whopping 142 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity across 348 installations. Also in the brick-and-mortar retail category are Target, Costco, Kohl’s, IKEA, Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Staples, Walgreens and Safeway. But it’s not just retailers powering stores. FedEx powers distribution centers with solar. Apple and Verizon use the power of the sun for their enormous data centers. The headquarters and offices of L’Oreal, the Better Business Bureau and Forever 21 also run on solar. Auto manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen rely on solar energy, and so do manufacturers like Owens Corning, Intel and Johnson & Johnson. Across industries, business leaders are choosing solar to cut costs and plan for the future.

What’s driving this growth of companies using solar energy? Primarily, the falling price of solar energy has made it accessible to more businesses than ever before. Combined with federal, state and local renewable energy mandates and tax incentives, the circumstances have never been more favorable for businesses going solar than they are today. Solar and business just go well together.

Commercial solar is spreading across the nation

Commercial solar power generation can help support corporate sustainability goalsThe SEIA report also shows that solar’s not just for Californians. Though California still leads with 287.2 MW of cumulative commercial solar capacity, businesses across the fruited plain are adopting solar as well, giving the Golden State a run for its money. 

New Jersey is not far behind with 227.1 MW of solar capacity based on 2015 installations for businesses, and then it drops down to double digits (17.2 – 46.7 MW range for each) with North Carolina, Maryland, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania rounding out the top 10 states for commercial solar use. 

Some companies have been particularly enthusiastic about spreading their solar initiatives into multiple regions. IKEA wins the most geographically distributed category with solar-powered stores in 22 different states.

There are many ways businesses can go solar

One big takeaway from the SEIA report is that businesses are getting very creative about how they take advantage of solar power, with variations in the types and combinations of solar arrays they’re buying or leasing, and the wide range of facilities they’re powering with solar systems. Businesses can choose from rooftop installations, ground-mounted arrays or carport/parking lot canopy solutions—or any combination of these to meet their needs. The overwhelming majority choose rooftop solar solutions, but roof systems are not always the appropriate type of commercial solar installation depending on the site or sites they’re trying to power.

Brands are using their solar power generation to run retail stores, office buildings and corporate campuses, manufacturing facilities, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, event venues, agricultural operations and more. The types of buildings and activities a company plans to power affect what type(s) of installation they choose to maximize return on their solar investments.

Follow the solar leaders

Ultimately, there are many ways to go solar and meet your company’s renewable energy goals. There’s also much we can learn from the pioneering leadership of America’s top companies using solar. These innovative brands who are already extensively using solar for their own power generation have paved the way by defining and solving problems, setting an exceptional example of good corporate sustainability practices and demonstrating how going solar can be a solid fiscal decision as well as a feel-good one.


Related links:

Is commercial solar right for your organization?

Installation investigation: Choosing the right solar design for your organization

VIDEO: The basic components of a commercial solar installation

INFOGRAPHIC: Why companies are adopting sustainable business practices

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