Apple, Amazon, Walmart Lead Corporate Solar Installations in the US

With 1.2 GW installed, 2019 ranked as the second biggest year for commercial solar installations

October 8, 2020


The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has come out with its latest report, ‘Solar Means Business,’ which tracks U.S. solar installations that support commercial activities. The eighth annual edition of the report focuses on America’s largest companies and includes data from companies of all sizes.

As per the report, Apple remained at the top spot for the second year in a row, with 398.3 MW (on-site and off-site) installed. Amazon grabbed the second spot with 369 MW installed. Walmart rounded off the top three with 331 MW of solar installations.

Cumulative Installed Solar Capacity

The report points out that 2019 ranked as the second biggest year for commercial solar installations, with 1.2 GW installed, up 18% from 2018. What stands out is that almost half of all corporate solar capacity has been installed in the last three years.

Considering only cumulative on-site solar installations, Target claimed the top spot for the fourth year in a row, adding 25.6 MW of on-site solar in 2019. Prologis added 7.7 MW of on-site solar installations jumping to number three in the cumulative rankings. Amazon came at number four, adding nearly 40 MW of capacity in the on-site roof and ground-mounted systems in 2019.

Amazon has also announced its plan to develop five new renewable energy projects in China, Australia, and the U.S. It plans to make 50% of all of its shipments net-zero carbon by 2030.

According to the report, the top four sectors that led the way in corporate solar installations were manufacturing, tech, real estate, and retail.

California continued to lead the way among the states due to a supportive policy environment and excellent solar resources, resulting in a diverse mix of smaller on-site and larger off-site projects. New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts also made the top 10 with solid state-level policy and high building density leading to many rooftop systems. Large off-site projects helped North Carolina, Nevada, and Virginia to be in the top 10. For the first time, Georgia entered the top 10, as two large projects totaling 300 MW were completed in 2019.

The on-site installations saw a spike in 2019, with 844 MW of commercial solar projects installed. Also, 441 MW of off-site solar were installed in 2019.

The rapid decline in the price to install solar has been the primary driver of recent commercial solar growth. The report states that the cost to install an on-site commercial system has dropped by 69% over the past decade and by 30% over the last five years.

Price Decline Fules Commercial Solar Growth

Another reason for the increased solar use has been the proliferation of explicit renewable energy and carbon goals among the world’s largest companies. Out of the 25 companies, 23 companies in the rankings have committed to a clean energy goal, with 15 committing to 100% renewables targets or better.

The report further points out that the electricity generated from the solar installations offsets more than 8.9 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to taking 1.9 million cars off the streets.

Another critical aspect highlighted in the report is that ground-mount systems now account for a  majority of installed commercial capacity. However, individual rooftop systems are still more common. Carport systems continue to be an attractive proposition for companies without abundant land or suitable roof space.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on business activities globally, and the solar sector has also not been spared. The report states that Q2 2020 saw a decline in on-site installations due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. Since Q2 2020, the business has mostly recovered as lockdown orders have been lifted in many states.

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America announced tax relief for taxpayers who have installed renewable energy projects.

On-site installations in 2020 are expected to take a hit, primarily due to coronavirus, but also due to state incentive structures that have made rooftop solar less attractive in some markets.

The report predicts that over the next three years, more than 5 GW of off-site corporate solar is expected to come online, supported by a recovering rooftop market.

Recently, Coke and Pepsi announced deadlines for energy sustainability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing renewable energy adoption. PepsiCo announced it would source 100% renewable electricity across all company-owned and controlled operations globally by 2030. On the other hand, Coca-Cola set a deadline of 2030 for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% from a 2015 base-year.

Meanwhile, by the end of 2019, 7,332 U.S. schools had turned towards solar power, nearly double the number five years earlier. As a result, more than five million students across the U.S. now attend schools powered by solar energy. With 1,365 MW of cumulative installed capacity, solar schools in the U.S. are now generating enough energy to power 254,030 U.S. homes.