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Solar Means Business 2016


Solar Means Business: Tracking Solar Adoption by America's Top Companies

About the Report

  • Solar Means Business tracks solar adoption at U.S. facilities by large corporations
  • This is the 5th annual edition of the report
    • Has expanded from 300 MW in 2012 to over 1 GW in 2016
  • Not a comprehensive look at corporate solar in the U.S., but focused on the largest adopters
    • Represents 16% of all non-residential, non-utility-scale solar PV capacity in the U.S.
  • We get our data from a mix of sources:
    • Directly from the companies themselves
    • From installers, with permission of the companies
    • From publicly available data sources such as press releases or state regulatory bodies
  • All data in this chart from SEIA 2016 Solar Means Business Report unless otherwise noted
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  • Target takes top spot, besting Walmart for first time
    • 1)Target: 147.5 MW  2)Walmart: 145 MW  3) Prologis: 108 MW
    • Walmart had taken the top spot in each of the last 4 reports
  • Report grows to cover 1,092 MW across 1,947 installations
    • Up from 907 MW across 1,686 installations in 2016
  • These systems collectively produce 1.5 million MWh annually
    • Equivalent to the electricity needed to power 193,000 homes
    • Offsets 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year
  • Through the first 3 quarters of 2016, companies in this report installed 142 MW
    • Well ahead of the 130 MW installed in all of 2015

Top 10 by Megawatts (MW) Installed

Top 10 by Number of Installations

Top 10 by Solar Capacity Installed in 2016

Top 10 by % of Facilities with Solar

Report Shows Corporate Installs in 38 States

Corporate Adoption Over Time

  • 142 MW installed through first three quarters of 2016 - well ahead of the 130 MW installed in 2015 and the highest total since 2013
  • Commercial installs in general are down from highs in 2012 and 2013 due to difficulties in obtaining financing for smaller commercial entities and state level policy instability

Average Corporate System Size Over Time

  • System sizes for large corporates in this dataset are much larger than in the commercial segment in general. This is due to the prevalence of big box stores and large distributers in the dataset. Large solar farms that power data centers also raise average system size
  • While commercial systems in this dataset have become somewhat smaller over the last several years, we expect system size to increase in the near term with the addition of several large-scale plants powering facilities for Apple and Amazon. Increases in off-site corporate procurement and self-consumption systems will also likely increase average system size

Facility Types

Because this dataset is largely made up of large retailers, the breakdown here isn’t surprising. But we have seen increases in solar adoption by facilities such as data centers and large distributors. These facilities are often not net metered, with the projects either serving as self consumption projects or as wholesale distributed generation. Without the restrictions that net metering presents, these systems are typically much larger than normal rooftop systems, so as to maximize value to the system owner.

Bigger Picture: Corporate vs. Non-Residential

  • Like the non-residential segment in general, large corporate installs have remained stagnant since 2012. As aforementioned, this is primarily due to the difficulty in obtaining financing for small commercial entities, and due to policy instability affecting SREC and net metering markets at the state level
  • The market is expected to see some growth in 2016 however, due to growth by non-commercial entities, but also due to some of the large scale corporate procurement by companies featured in this report, like Apple, Amazon, Target, Walmart and others

Declining PV Prices Drive Growth

  • Rapidly falling solar installation prices have offset policy instability in many markets, and have allowed the non-residential space to stay flat in recent years. These declines are helping to drive the market in 2016 and are likely to continue to drive the market going forward
  • Commercial prices have fallen by 58% since 2012 and by 16% in the last year

Looking Forward

  • While large Corporates have been somewhat insulated from financing difficulties faced by smaller firms, they still are exposed to risk from policy instability
  • Increases in large corporate procurement that bypasses net metering avoids some of the policy risk, though rate design will still continue to affect corporate solar adoption
  • Even among large companies, still lots of low hanging fruit in the traditional rooftop space
  • Only 7% of Walmarts 5,000+ facilities have gone solar
  • Only 2% of Albertson’s (formerly Safeway) 2000+ facilities
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