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Large Companies Increasing Solar Use

For many years, business efforts and sustainability have often been seen as opposites by some in the general public. Yet for years now, many companies have in fact been increasing their work in this area, as some of the biggest names in American corporations are quietly boosting their profile in terms of green energy use. Now, a new report shows just how profitable the area can be.

Moving into the future of power

Companies are using a great deal more solar these days, according to the latest report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Vote Solar. The biggest headline the report regards the heavy use at the top of the chain. As of August 2013, the 25 companies that deploy the most solar have utilized about 445 total megawatts at 950 different facilities, an amount sufficient to power more than 73,000 homes throughout the country.

This is a massive increase over previous years. Just last year, in 2012, only 300 megawatts were created at 730 different facilities among these 25 companies. The names included among the list are considered titans of industry, rarely mentioned when it comes to sustainable living - but perhaps that could be changing in the coming years. Walmart, for instance, sat atop the list, with 89 MW produced in total. Costco was a distant second with a little more than 47 MW produced, and Kohl's came in third with just under 45 MW.

Ikea, famous for its DIY furniture, placed fifth in the rankings. It was an honor that the company had worked hard to achieve, according to Mike Ward, president of the company's United States branch.

"We are pleased with the progress we have made towards installing solar panels atop nearly 90 percent of our U.S. locations," said Ward. "We appreciate the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Vote Solar Initiative for acknowledging our commitment to sustainability as represented by our investment in solar photovoltaic technology. We are honored to be recognized for helping contribute to the development, expansion and promotion of the U.S. solar industry as we work toward our goal of using 100 percent renewable energy in our operations."

A new era?

Companies are not doing it with individual facilities, either - many have a diverse array of installations across the nation. Walmart, again, placed first, with 215 different locations, and Walgreens - which was 15th in the rankings of overall generation - was second with 156 installations. The areas these companies were operating out of stretched across the map. While California and the Northeast were most heavily populated with installations, there were also numerous locations across the South and Midwest.

The growth in so many different areas was good news, according to Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar. It represents a potential tipping point for the use of solar in America, he said.

"For years, the promise of solar was always 'just around the corner.' Well, solar has turned the corner, and found itself on Main Street, USA," Browning said. "These companies ā€“ titans of American business ā€“ may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way."

It's a great sign for green energy solutions, and many other companies are making the switch into other areas, too. Google did not make the list, but has done a great deal in funding various clean energy installations worldwide. Just last month, the company announced it would be buying the output of a solar installation outside of Amarillo, Texas. It will be interesting to see if the huge increases these companies have made in recent years continue in the years to come.

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Joy Mariano, Viridian Energy
Rutherford, NJ 07070

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