Target tops the list of American businesses using solar energy, beating out Wal-Mart for the first time, according to a report released Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Target installed almost 70 megawatts of solar panels at its facilities in 2016, for a total of 147.5 MW of installed solar capacity at 300 stores, according to the report. By comparison, Wal-Mart’s 145 MW of solar panels are found at 364 different locations.
Other retail and mall companies in the report’s Top 10 include real estate developer Prologis (107.8 MW), Apple (93.9 MW), Costco (50.7 MW), Kohl’s (50.2 MW), IKEA (44 MW), Macy’s (38.9 MW), shopping center developer General Growth Properties, Inc. (30.2 MW) and real estate and shopping center developer Hartz Mountain Industries (22.7 MW).
Retailers and shopping centers are prevalent in the top businesses installing solar energy because their big-box retail and warehouse infrastructure is ideal, according to the SEIA. But the organization also said retailers could do much more: While each week 2% of the U.S. population visits a solar-powered Wal-Mart store, for example, just 7% of the retailer's 5,000+ facilities have gone solar.
IKEA and smaller retailers, by contrast, have done just about what they can when it comes to installing solar panels, SEIA said. IKEA, for example, has solar panels at 90% of its facilities.
Solar energy has become an intriguing opportunity for U.S. corporations to further their sustainability goals and even save money. As costs have come down in recent years and consumers become more environmentally conscious, there has been growing demand from corporations for renewable energy.
In a company statement, Target VP of Property Management John Leisen expressed pride in its place on SEIA’s list and said there are more solar installations to come. The retailer is aiming to install solar panels on 500 stores and distribution centers by 2020. “At Target, sustainability is a principle that drives the decisions we make across the company – from the products we make to the way we run our business," he said. "We’re incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in improving building efficiencies and reducing environmental impact."
Wal-Mart also said that solar installations will continue to be part of its sustainability efforts. “Solar plays a vital role within our renewable energy portfolio,” Wal-Mart VP of Energy Mark Vanderhelm said in a statement. “This is evident by our 2020 commitment of doubling solar energy projects at our Walmart stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers across the nation. Our focus is on finding those solar projects that are right for the business. Being recognized by the SEIA for our efforts is confirmation that we are moving in the right direction with regards to renewable energy, specifically solar.”
SEIA’s interim president Tom Kimbis said that these retailers and real estate companies are demonstrating that solar is a cost-effective way to acquire energy. “Investing in solar is a common-sense decision that pays dividends for both the environment and companies’ bottom lines and these leaders deserve a big round of applause," said in a statement. "They’re not only helping to create thousands of American jobs in solar, the nearly 2,000 corporate systems highlighted in this report are generating enough clean electricity to offset more than 1.1 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions a year.”