Target zooms past Wal-Mart in installations

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2016

Move over, Wal-Mart. For the first time ever, retail giant Target Corp. is the top corporate installer of solar power in the United States.

The discount chain surged from 11th to first in annual rankings from the Solar Energy Industries Association of the largest business adopters of solar in terms of overall installed capacity. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. dominated the top spot for the past four years.

Cumulative solar installations by large corporations have more than tripled since 2012, from 300 megawatts to more than 1 gigawatt, SEIA said.

Installations in the first three quarters of 2016 were higher than all of last year, said its “Solar Means Business” report.

Installations are down from the highs of 2012 and 2013, “due to difficulties in obtaining financing for smaller commercial entities and state level policy instability,” SEIA said. That includes pushback in some states against net-metering policies and renewable energy certificates.

Still, corporate solar has grown because of a combination of factors, including declining solar panel costs, extensions of the federal investment tax credit and growing company commitments to sustainability, the group said.

Target’s No. 1 ranking partly results from a company pledge to install rooftop solar on 500 of its facilities by 2020.

With the surge this year, Target now has more than 147 MW of installed solar capacity, ahead of Wal-Mart’s 146 MW. Prologis Inc., Apple Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., Kohl’s Corp., Ikea, Macy’s Inc., General Growth Properties Inc. and Hartz Mountain Corp. round out the top 10.

“We’re incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in improving building efficiencies and reducing environmental impact. Our commitment to installing solar panels on 500 stores and distribution centers by 2020 is evidence of that progress,” said John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target.

Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Wal-Mart, said the company has committed to doubling solar energy projects at its stores and distribution centers by the end of the decade. “Our focus is on finding those solar projects that are right for the business,” he said.

Other findings of the report include:

  • Ikea has the highest percentage of its facilities with solar, at more than 90 percent. General Motors Co. and Johnson & Johnson rank second and third in that category. Target and Wal-Mart installed solar on fewer than 20 percent of their facilities.
  • The largest corporate adopters cover 16 percent of all nonresidential, non-utility-scale solar photovoltaic capacity in the U.S., including almost 2,000 installations in 38 states.
  • Commercial solar prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012.

The report follows several corporate announcements on solar. Yesterday, SolarCity Corp. unveiled a partnership with Airbnb Inc. that allows Airbnb hosts to receive a $1,000 rebate for installing solar.