Walmart and Costco top commercial solar users in US, SEIA study finds

The second edition of SEIA’s Solar Means Business report has revealed that U.S. businesses and NGOs added more than 1,000 MW of solar PV in the 12 months since their inaugural report, with retail giants Walmart and Costco leading the way for installed capacity.

By the midway point of 2013, SEIA finds, cumulative commercial solar capacity stood at 3,380 MW, spread across 32,800 facilities throughout the States. These figures represent a 40% increase on last year, finds the report, which was produced in collaboration with the Vote Solar Initiative.

As solar PV costs have plummeted, uptake in the American commercial sector has been rapid. Since the beginning of 2011, the average cost of a completed commercial PV project has fallen by approximately 30%, which has prompted boardrooms around the country to loosen their purse strings and investigate the potential of solar energy.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the report is the widespread adoption of solar among major U.S. corporations. The SEIA found that the 25 most prolific companies were able to generate 445 MW of solar power across 950 facilities – nearly 50% more than the 300 MW of power capabilities those companies shared last year.

Solar: a smart business investment

Fuelled by the volatility of traditional utility prices and the tumbling costs of solar equipment, boardrooms across the U.S. have begun to realize that solar makes smart business sense. Walmart are used to topping charts for sales figures and share of market revenue, and they also top SEIA’s Top 25 Companies by Solar Capacity chart, too, with 89.4 MW of installed solar capacity.

Costco comes in second place, with 47 MW of installed PV capacity, closely followed by Kohl’s (44 MW) and Apple (40.7 MW). Swedish furniture giants IKEA – not averse to their own solar pushes – make up the top five, with 35 MW of solar capacity installed.

Ranked by number of installations, Walmart again claims top spot, with 215 solar power systems installed in the country. In second place is Walgreens, with 156, then Kohl’s (140), Costco (78) and Macy’s in fifth place, with 44 separate installations.

However, IKEA tops two further charts: geographic spread and percentage of facilities with solar power. The Swedish company has solar installations in 20 states, and an impressive 89% of their facilities are solar-powered.

On the other hand, only 5% of Walmart’s stores are solar-powered, which indicates the immense potential for solar growth that exists at the company’s fingertips.