While some people’s idea of the future may include flying cars and a summer home on Mars, others have likely dreamed of a more realistic possibility: an increasing number of residential areas being powered by solar energy and other forms of alternative energy, reducing the need for traditional electricity. Despite the growing popularity of solar energy, however, this beneficial technology seems to have more favor with America’s commercial sector. In a recent report titled “Solar Means Business,” the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) stated that a number of the most profitable companies are using solar energy to power their businesses.
According to the SEIA, the top 25 companies with the highest solar capacity in the United States now have a combined 1,110 systems in place, totaling 569 megawatts. This is reportedly enough to power more than 115,000 homes. Surprisingly, Walmart dominated the list, with the highest number of installations and also the highest energy capacity. But while the retail giant was followed by Kohl’s, Costco, Apple and IKEA, Walmart apparently still has some work to do: while IKEA reportedly uses solar power at 87% of its facilities, Walmart only used solar power at 5% of their buildings.
This commercial trend is part of an increasing popularity of non-residential solar power throughout the U.S.. As of summer 2014, the SEIA reported that there had been 4,531 megawatts of solar photovoltaic systems installed on 41,803 businesses, non-profit organizations, and government buildings across the country. The trend can likely be traced back to a recent decrease in the cost of solar energy, as research shows that the average price of a commercial solar energy project has decreased by 14% since 2013 and by more than 45% since 2012. Moreover, the average electricity rate for commercial users has increased by more than 20% in 10 years, giving many companies the opportunity to save money by switching to high capacity solar systems.
“Our company has produced the product of PowerParasol which has become very popular with businesses, their customers, employees and has an extraordinary impact on their energy bills. When a business can produce solar energy, long term at a set price, it can create an amenity for its customers and employees, which is a win for everybody,” says Jay Thorne, Spokesman, Strategic Solar Energy.
Cumulatively, the Top 25 companies listed in the SEIA’s report have installed 28% more solar capacity in 2014 than in the previous year; Walmart alone added another 15 KW. These new photovoltaic systems are located in 33 different states and Puerto Rico, including three new states: Delaware, Rhode Island and Missouri. As a result, 129 million people, or 41% of the American population, reportedly live within 20 miles of at least one of these 1,110 commercial solar installations, and likely visits a solar-powered facility on a regular basis.