SEIA Crowns Top 10 U.S. Corporate Solar Installers
Retail giant Target has grabbed the top spot among U.S. businesses that are going solar. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has revealed Target’s ascension to the top of the list in the organization’s 2016 Solar Means Business report, which found that more U.S. businesses are installing solar than ever before.
Adding more solar this year than any other U.S. retailer, Target now has 147.5 MW of installed solar capacity, according to the report. This is the first time Target has ranked No. 1 in the report’s five-year history.
“We feel honored to be named the top corporate solar installer in the U.S. by the Solar Energy Industries Association,” says John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target. “At Target, sustainability is a principle that drives the decisions we make across the company – from the products we make, to the way we run our business. We’re incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in improving building efficiencies and reducing environmental impact. Our commitment to installing solar panels on 500 stores and distribution centers by 2020 is evidence of that progress.”
Other companies recognized in the report’s top 10 for their amount of solar capacity and number of solar installations include heretofore perennial champion Walmart (145 MW), Prologis (107.8 MW), Apple (93.9 MW), Costco (50.7 MW), Kohl’s (50.2 MW), IKEA (44 MW), Macy’s (38.9 MW), General Growth Properties Inc. (30.2 MW) and Hartz Mountain Industries (22.7 MW).
“These blue-chip companies are proof that sustainability and profitability is not an either-or proposition,” says SEIA Interim President Tom Kimbis. “Investing in solar is a commonsense decision that pays dividends for both the environment and companies’ bottom lines, and these leaders deserve a big round of applause. They’re not only helping to create thousands of American jobs in solar – the nearly 2,000 corporate systems highlighted in this report are generating enough clean electricity to offset more than 1.1 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions a year.”
Covering corporate solar installs now in 38 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, the 2016 Solar Means Business report tracks nearly 1,100 MW of solar installations at the U.S.’ top companies. To put that in context, the report says, that’s enough electricity to power the equivalent of 193,000 homes every year. Also noteworthy, in just the first three quarters of 2016, the report found 142 MW of corporate solar was added in the U.S. – more than was installed in all of 2015 (129 MW).
“Solar plays a vital role within our renewable energy portfolio,” says Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart. “This is evident by our 2020 commitment of doubling solar energy projects at our Walmart stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers across the nation. Our focus is on finding those solar projects that are right for the business. Being recognized by SEIA for our efforts is confirmation that we are moving in the right direction with regards to renewable energy, specifically solar.”
Arizona Public Service Hits Solar Milestone
This summer, utility Arizona Public Service (APS) reached a major solar milestone, surpassing 1 GW of solar energy capacity. When generating at full power, this capacity meets the partial daytime needs of 250,000 Arizona homes, and the company says its total investment in solar energy is approximately $2 billion.
APS’ solar portfolio is almost an even split between rooftop systems and grid-scale projects, with 551 MW coming from rooftop systems and 499 MW coming from grid-scale projects.
“APS customers benefit from the fact that when you include energy from APS’ other renewable energy sources – wind, geothermal, biomass and biogas – and the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, nearly half of all the power on APS’ system is carbon-free,” says Tammy McLeod, APS vice president of resource management. “A cleaner energy mix is a top priority for us, with solar playing an important role.”
The utility says it receives its grid-scale solar generation from a combination of APS-owned systems and power purchase agreements. Through its AZ Sun Program, APS owns and operates nine solar plants across Arizona. These plants were designed and constructed by independent solar developers, contractors and equipment providers and provide 170 MW of capacity. The rest of APS’ grid-scale solar comes from independently owned power plants across Arizona with long-term agreements to sell power to APS.
Most of the power from rooftop solar comes from systems owned by homeowners or leasing companies. APS owns 10 MW. The utility says the APS-owned systems are strategically placed on customer homes in a way that allows the company to engage in research and development activities on how solar and other advanced technologies, such as smart inverters and battery storage, impact the ability of the utility to provide reliable and safe energy for customers.
Notably, APS came under fire from some solar advocates earlier this year after the utility proposed changes to net energy metering rules and other solar policies. However, APS CEO Don Brandt contended at the time, “Our proposal is pro-solar and pro-customer. We want to continue Arizona’s solar leadership the right way – with more solar, for more customers, without driving up the energy bills paid by non-solar customers.”
IEA Increases Renewables Forecast Amid Record Growth
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced it is significantly increasing its five-year growth forecast for renewables, thanks to strong policy support in key countries and sharp cost reductions. According to the IEA, renewables surpassed coal in 2015 to become the largest source of installed power capacity in the world.
The latest edition of the IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Market Report now sees renewables growing 13% more between 2015 and 2021 than the agency did in last year’s forecast, due mostly to stronger policy backing in the U.S., China, India and Mexico. Over the forecast period, costs are expected to drop by a quarter in solar PV and 15% for onshore wind.
The IEA says last year marked a turning point for renewables. Led by wind and solar, renewables represented more than half of the new power capacity around the world, reaching a record 153 GW, 15% more than the previous year. Most of these gains were driven by record-level wind additions of 66 GW and solar PV additions of 49 GW.
According to the agency, about half-a-million solar panels were installed every day around the world last year. In China, which accounted for about half of the wind additions and 40% of all renewable capacity increases, two wind turbines were installed every hour in 2015.
“We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables, and as is the case with other fields, the center of gravity for renewable growth is moving to emerging markets,” says Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
The IEA says there are many factors behind this remarkable achievement, including more competition, enhanced policy support in key markets and technology improvements. While climate change mitigation is a powerful driver for renewables, it is not the only one. In many countries, cutting deadly air pollution and diversifying energy supplies to improve energy security play an equally strong role in growing low-carbon energy sources, especially in emerging Asia, the agency notes.
Over the next five years, the IEA expects renewables to remain the fastest-growing source of electricity generation, with their share growing to 28% in 2021 from 23% in 2015.
Renewables are expected to cover more than 60% of the increase in world electricity generation over the medium term, rapidly closing the gap with coal. Generation from renewables is expected to exceed 7,600 TWh by 2021 – equivalent to the total electricity generation of the U.S. and the European Union put together today.
However, although 2015 was an exceptional year, the IEA says there are still grounds for caution. Policy uncertainty persists in too many countries, slowing down the pace of investments. Rapid progress in variable renewables, such as wind and solar PV, is also exacerbating system integration issues in a number of markets, and the cost of financing remains a barrier in many developing countries. And finally, the IEA says, progress in renewable growth in the heat and transport sectors remains slow and needs significantly stronger policy efforts.
U.S. Navy And CEC Partner On Clean Energy
The California Energy Commission (CEC) and the U.S. Department of the Navy have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to partner on renewable energy initiatives, including solar projects at military bases.
CEC Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Dennis V. McGinn signed the agreement formalizing a partnership that supports Navy and Marine Corps installation efforts to develop alternative energy resources and increase energy security and reliability. According to the CEC, the MOU ensures continued collaboration and information sharing on energy projects and initiatives.
“California and the Navy are taking action to boost energy efficiency and curb our dependence on fossil fuels,” comments Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif. “This agreement will help expand renewable energy at military bases and secure water supplies in the face of drought.”
The MOU helps implement some of the key recommendations made by the Governor’s Military Council last year, and a recent joint project between the Navy and the CEC included the installation of a solar microgrid system with battery storage to ensure mission readiness should the commercial power grid fail at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
In 2009, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus set aggressive renewable energy goals to spur the development of alternative power and energy-efficient technology and operational procedures. Recognizing the benefits of alternative energy, Mabus stood up the Renewable Energy Program Office (REPO) in order to accelerate his goals and bring 1 GW of renewable energy into procurement by the end of 2015 – which REPO completed in just 18 months, according to the CEC. The CEC notes it also works with renewable energy developers to ensure their proposed projects in the state do not interfere with space owned, leased or used by the military for training or testing.
“One of the three pillars critical to the Navy and Marine Corps’ energy transformation is partnerships, like the strong and enduring one we have with the State of California,” says McGinn.
Following the MOU signing, McGinn revealed that REPO has entered agreements to develop solar energy and solar+storage projects at three Navy installations in California.
The REPO agreements include the development of the largest solar PV facility on Department of Defense land at Naval Air Station Lemoore; a solar power and large-scale battery storage system at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach; and solar power combined with battery technology to supply energy to smaller critical loads indefinitely at Naval Base Ventura County.
In addition to the solar projects, the CEC notes that McGinn also announced that the Navy and Marine Corps will lease 205 new electric vehicles for use at California installations – the largest integration of electric vehicles in the federal government.
These projects help to further solidify the collaborative efforts between the Navy and California, according to the CEC.
Women Of Wind Energy
Expands Into Solar
Women of Wind Energy (WoWE), an organization that has long promoted the education, professional development and advancement of women in the wind industry, is opening its programs and services to go beyond its wind energy legacy.
In response to ongoing conversations with stakeholders and recent industry trends, WoWE says it will continue to work with the wind industry, but the group will now also broaden its scope to include solar, energy storage, energy efficiency, energy management, and power marketers focused on renewables, transmission, distributed generation, and smart grid technologies. At press time, WoWE is still working to develop a new name and logo to support its expanded scope and direction.
“It is an exciting time as the renewable energy sector grows and women enter the workforce in increasing numbers,” says Kristen Graf, WoWE’s executive director. “We look forward to working with a broader community of industry professionals to advance, connect and empower women across various fields who are engaged in moving the world toward a renewable energy future.”
“As an organization that, itself, just expanded its scope and re-branded to the Smart Electric Power Alliance from the Solar Electric Power Association, SEPA appreciates WoWE’s recognition of the value in taking a broader perspective on the changes happening in the power sector,” says Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA. “WoWE’s proven model and structure can be incredibly supportive in advancing women across all renewable energy-related sectors.”
“We greatly look forward to joining forces with WoWE to ensure our continued commitment to diversity in the energy storage industry produces demonstrable results for our community,” comments Matt Roberts, executive director of the Energy Storage Association.