Target dethrones Walmart as top corporate PV user in US

Target has ended Walmart’s four-year reign as the leading corporate installer of PV in the US, adding 68.7MW this year through 30 September, more capacity than 40 states have in operation, according to a new report by GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Minneapolis-based Target had 147.5MW in place across 300 installations versus 145MW located at 364 sites for rival Walmart, the largest global company by sales. Walmart has installed 21.2MW thus far in 2016.

Prologis, an industrial real estate developer based in San Francisco, was third with a total 107.8MW of PV installations. Rounding out the top 10 were Apple (93.9MW); retailer Costco (50.7MW); retailer Kohl’s (50.2MW); IKEA (44MW); Macy’s (38.9MW); General Growth Properties (GGP), a Chicago-based real estate investment trust (30.2MW), and Hartz Mountain, a pet supplier (22.7MW).

Other household names in the top 25 were Fedex (18MW), Verizon (14MW), L’Oreal and General Motors (12MW each), and Volkswagen (10MW), according to Solar Means Business 2016.

When it comes to percentage of facilities with PV installations in the US, IKEA is far-and-away the leader with almost 90%. GM is second with more than 30%, followed by Johnson & Johnson and GGP with more than 25%, and Target with about 25%.

The report looked at the largest corporate PV installers and is not a comprehensive study of corporate solar in the US. Still, the big players represent 16% of all non-residential, non-utility-scale PV capacity in the US and a major driver for adoption.

Companies included in the report installed 142MW through the first three quarters, well ahead of 130MW for all of 2015.

The best is yet to come as there is plenty of “low-hanging fruit” in the rooftop space, according to the report, which noted that only 7% of Walmart’s 5,000+ facilities have gone solar and just 2% of food retailer Albertson’s 2000+ outlets.

Retail represents about half of corporate installed PV capacity, followed by distribution, data centers, manufacturing/R&D, office and “other” that includes a ranges of activities.

Corporate America is accelerating adoption of PV in response to declining prices but solar also makes financial sense.

“It should be noted that these companies are focused on shareholder value, and they wouldn’t invest in solar if they weren’t getting a return on that investment,” the report noted.

It added that while large corporate have been somewhat insulated from financing difficulties faced by smaller firms, buying decisions are still influenced by policy.

As well, increases in large corporate procurement that bypasses net metering avoids some of the policy risk, rate design will continue to affect corporate solar adoption, according to the report.