Takeaways from the SEIA Press Hangout

Last Updated:
Wed, 2013-10-23 10:23

Last Tuesday, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) hosted a Google+ Press Hangout to discuss the launch of the second annual Solar Means Business Report put together by SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar). Together they have identified major commercial solar projects in the U.S. and have ranked America’s top corporate solar customers.

Corporate representatives participating in the hangout included Kim Saylors-Laster, Vice President of Energy for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Håkan Nordkvist, Head of Sustainability Innovation for IKEA; and Rob Threlkeld, Manager of Renewable Energy for General Motors.

solar-means-business-vote-solar Important solar achievements and goals of the companies represented in the hangout include:

  • Wal-Mart is the corporate leader in solar capacity for the second year in a row. It has 89 megawatts installed at 215 different locations all across the country.
  • IKEA has the largest percentage of stores in America with solar on top of its roofs. The company recently launched residential solar sales in the UK.
  • General Motors has set the ambitious goal of having 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020.

Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO, was the moderator; he welcomed everyone to the event by saying "even though the government is shut down, solar energy is still working throughout America." Here are some key takeaways from Tuesday’s press hangout:

Americans Want More Solar Energy

According to Adam Browning, Executive Director for Vote Solar, poll after poll shows that large majorities of Americans across the country want to see vastly expanded use of renewable energy and, among renewable energy, nothing polls higher than solar. Jim Walker, Co-founder of the Climate Group and Director of International Programs and Strategy, stated that nine out of ten Americans now want more solar.

The Price of Solar Energy is Dropping

Over the years, the consistent decline in the cost of PV systems has continued to improve the value of solar to commercial users. The average price of a completed commercial PV project has dropped 30% since 2011. Large companies are able to drive scale-up and cost down faster than consumers can. Companies like Wal-Mart and IKEA are helping to lower prices and make the market more accessible for individuals.

Solar Energy is Proving Cost Effective for Businesses

The dramatic fall in prices is encouraging more companies to invest in on-site solar energy systems. According to Kim Saylors-Laster, Wal-Mart believes that for solar to be sustainable, it has to be cost effective—and so far it has been. Since its first installations in 2007, Wal-Mart has saved over $3 million in utility expenses. Solar is helping businesses improve their bottom-line by reducing operating expenses.

The Market Follows Good Policy

Many of the company representatives commented that they started their solar development in the western part of the country and moved to other markets as policy in those states became more favorable. For example, Wal-Mart currently has 123 solar installations in California. As other markets have become more open to solar the company has also expanded and is now in 12 different states and Puerto Rico. Although the California Solar Initiative incentives are disappearing, commercial installations are continuing to rise. This is an example of where a program with a relatively short duration really scaled up the industry, drove down costs, improved the acceptance of solar, and created a sustainable market in California.

2013 is projected to be a record year for solar energy in America!

As of August 2013, total commercial solar deployment was at 3,380 megawatts at almost 33,000 different facilities. This is up 40% from last year. In order to continue this revolution, we are going to have to continue to have policy that supports the development of technology and, on the other end, continued corporate leadership. As more and more installations pop up all over the country, it would be nice to see a network of the people who have already taken the plunge into solar energy come together and let others know that solar is affordable, it works, and it is easier to acquire than many may have previously thought.

By Danielle Whitman

Photo courtesy of Vote Solar and SEIA.