Money & Business

Into the Sun: Trade Group Study Says Businesses Are Sold on Solar

By / Oct 18, 2013 (Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

Committed to reducing energy costs, Walmart and other large corporations are increasingly taking a shine to solar power, a new report finds.

Walmart is known for doing things big: huge stores, massive warehouses, and an immense PR and marketing machine that ensures the company’s brand is never more than a commercial break away from that big flat-screen hanging in your living room.

The list of companies moving to clean, affordable solar energy reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America.

According to a recent report from the nonprofit Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), based in Washington, DC, and the San Francisco-based Vote Solar Initiative, the retail giant does something else big too: solar.

The second annual report, “Solar Means Business 2013,” points to the advantages of sun-generated power as an energy alternative and tracks the top 25 Fortune 100 companies using solar energy to help power their operations.

“The list of companies moving to clean, affordable solar energy reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America,” SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said in a statement about the report. “These iconic brands are leading the way when it comes to efforts to reduce our nation’s dangerous dependence on foreign energy sources.”

Walmart, which ranked as the company with the most solar capacity for the second straight year, generates a whopping 89.43 megawatts (MW) of power from panels installed at some 215 locations across 11 states, according to the report. (For perspective, 1 megawatt of solar photovoltaic capacity can supply all the electricity for about 160 typical American households for a year.)

By comparison, the second-ranked company on the list, the national wholesaler Costco, generates 47.06 MW from its solar installations. Other household names on this year’s list include Kohl’s (44.72 MW), Apple (40.73 MW), IKEA (35.08 MW), Macy’s (20.78 MW), and Johnson & Johnson (17.43 MW).

While many of the names on this year’s list are the same as on the previous year’s, SEIA reports that total solar capacity across all 25 companies has increased by nearly 40 percent since 2012.

That’s a lot of rooftops, and a lot of power—in theory. But how much is it in practice?

Though Walmart is the clear leader in solar power capacity among Fortune 100 companies, the report notes that its solar installations produce a meager 5 percent of the total power the company consumes. Conversely, at IKEA, which was sixth on the list, 89 percent of the power used at its facilities comes from solar, according the the report.

The Swedish furniture maker is such a big proponent of solar that it has even begun selling solar panel systems for homes in its British stores.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner,’” Vote Solar Executive Director Adam Browning said in a statement about the report. “Well, solar has turned the corner and found itself on Main Street, USA.”

Has your association considered the use of solar power as alternative to traditional energy sources?

Corey Murray

Corey Murray is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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