Many of America’s biggest and most successful businesses have gone solar. The list includes industry giants like Walmart, Target, Apple, IKEA, Macy’s, FedEx, Verizon, General Motors, L’Oreal and others. Every day, more companies, both large and small, are investing in solar as well. Why? For many, it’s to save money. But solar can also be one of the most effective ways to quickly achieve corporate sustainability goals.
Benefits of solar power for business
Deciding whether solar is right for your business depends on many factors, including the regulatory environment and government incentives in your region, the suitability of your facilities, the support of your company’s leadership, your current energy costs and your rate of volatility, among others. If demonstrating corporate environmental responsibility is a high priority for your organization, solar can be one of the quickest paths to achieving even the most ambitious corporate sustainability goals.
For example, installing an onsite commercial solar panel system made of low-waste and responsibly-sourced materials can earn a commercial project more LEED® points than almost any other green building initiative. (LEED, short for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is the U.S. Green Building Council’s certification program that recognizes best-in-class green building strategies and practices.)
Across many industries—including big box retailers, manufacturers, agriculture, high tech, telecommunications, delivery services and more—U.S. businesses are incorporating commercial solar power into their long-term sustainability planning.
Many top brands using solar today started along this path by setting corporate sustainability goals and energy cost savings targets—or both. They wanted to be better stewards of the environment and use energy more wisely and cost-effectively. If that sounds familiar, then solar is a great first option to consider because it can take an organization a long way toward achieving both goals. If you’re interested but not sure where to start, read on.
Define your objectives and find a model to follow
As with any business goal, start by defining your objectives and then clearly delineate what success looks like. Look to others who have met or exceeded sustainability goals like yours, and emulate their process as it makes sense to do so. Be prepared to innovate to solve problems specific to your industry, organization, facilities, budget or circumstances.
Top 25 businesses ranked by their total onsite installed solar capacity, or the maximum power potential measured in megawatts (MW), from SEIA’s Solar Means Business 2016 report.
Take a look at SEIA’s 2016 list of the top 25 businesses ranked by solar capacity and other companies that have gone solar. Which business is most like yours? Are you looking to power office buildings and corporate campuses like General Growth Properties or McGraw Hill? Brick-and-mortar retail buildings like Macy’s or Walgreens? Manufacturing facilities like GM or Johnson & Johnson? Data centers like Apple or Verizon? Warehouses or distribution centers like Walmart or FedEx? Event venues? Agriculture? Or maybe some combination of these? There are many ways to go solar, so choosing an appropriate exemplar can help you understand what your end goal might look like.
Ask a solar expert (in fact, ask a bunch of them)
There are a variety of commercial solar options to choose from, so seek out multiple opinions and do your research about what others have chosen before you and what their outcomes have been. Ask for case studies or reach out to sustainability officers or facilities managers at companies you admire. Achieving lofty sustainability goals is a feather in these companies’ proverbial caps (garnering good PR and helping the planet at the same time), so many will proudly share their stories and advice, particularly if you’re not a direct competitor.