Wal-Mart, the number one retailer in the United States, also turns out to be the number one retail solar brand when it comes to solar installations, but it’s not alone. According to Solar Means Business, an annual report by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and The Vote Solar Initiative, Staples, Kohl’s, Apple, and many more popular brands and retailers are installing solar on their stores and warehouse facilities, and the number of installations is growing.
In fact, as of mid-2013, cumulative commercial deployment totaled 3,380 MW at over 32,800 facilities throughout the country, an increase of more than 40% over last year’s 2012 Solar Means Business report.
Here’s a list of the top leaders in terms of the amount of MW solar installed and the number of installations.
And here’s a graphic of all the various industries. It’s not just Big Box stores going solar.
Why are these brands turning to solar?
Certainly, many of these brands have corporate sustainability goals, but that’s just the start of the conversation. What enables and attracts more businesses to go solar today are several market trends that make solar financially attractive—regardless of any sustainability goals:
Declining Prices. The average price of a completed commercial PV project has steadily decreased over the last 10 years, dropping by 30% since the beginning of 2011. Much of the drop in the installed price follows the dramatic drop in the cost of solar panels and other equipment.
Low Up Front Costs. Another trend driving commercial solar’s growth is solar power purchase agreements (solar PPAs). These new financing arrangements have allowed chains like Wal-Mart to install solar on 215 stores without loans or upfront costs.
With a solar PPA, a finance company owns and pays the cost of the solar installation on one or multiple store locations. The finance company then bills the parent company for the solar energy that is produced by each system. Solar PPA structures can vary, but most allow businesses to reduce their electricity costs by 10% to 20% for 15 to 20 years—potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars or more over the life of the contract.
Commercial solar subsidies are still available. In addition to decreased solar installation costs, commercial solar subsidies are still available in many states, making a purchase even more affordable.
Saving on utility costs and high demand charges. Whether you purchase or use a solar PPA, solar systems are designed to reduce your electric bills. These famous brands aren’t just being more sustainable, they’re reducing their operating expenses.
Quality installers such as REC Solar analyze utility bills and offer customers a financial analysis. You’ll not only see your potential ROI, you’ll also see IRR, NPV, and simple payback. (In fact, with solar PPA financing, the payback can be immediate, since there’s usually no upfront costs.)
REC Solar has over 17 years of experience installing commercial solar on a single location or multiple locations, and we have longtime relationships with solar PPA finance companies. We’re honored that many of our customers are listed on the Solar Means Business report, and we want to help many more companies to reduce their utility costs with solar.